Postcard from... Germany


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The Independent Online

Nowadays it is described as the “horizontal Eiffel Tower” but for most of its active career it had the more prosaic, utilitarian title “F60”. The “largest existing overburden conveyor bridge ever built” must be the ultimate anorak’s dream come true. The device is a huge 502-metre-long and 80-metre-high bridge-like structure made out of 11,000 tonnes of steel.

Situated in east Germany’s Lausitz region, it was designed to cut evil-smelling brown coal from the former Communist state’s vast open-cast lignite mines at a rate of 29,000 cubic metres per hour. But it only went into operation in 1991 and was shut down 13 months later in the aftermath of German reunification as new anti-pollution policies scaled down lignite mining.

Now F60 is a tourist attraction. Visitors can gaze out from the top of the steel colossus across a lunar landscape that is gradually being transformed into a string of wooded lakes as deliberate flooding fills the vast craters formed by the open cast mines. F60 is used as an impressive backdrop for concerts. It would be easy to assume that F60 is a monument to a bygone era. But Germany’s decision to dispense totally with nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster has led to an increase in lignite mining.