Gravel disaster: the geological service had concerns – state policy – news

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the mining authority has these concerns “It is taken into account by the approval of the fourth master operating plan for the first part only, which does not yet provide for the final installation of the end ramps.”

Officially everything has been fine for a long time

According to research by WDR, the Arnsberg County Government has already complained to the operator about the lack of evidence of stability of the terminal slopes. However, it did not withdraw its open pit mining permit for quartz gravel and quartz sand until April 2021.

Also remarkable: according to the test reports that the operator submitted to the responsible Arnsberg county government since 2015 that the WDR was able to see, officially everything was always fine. The county government itself had no objections to a total of ten appointments to the site as of the spring of 2021.

The Cologne Public Prosecutor’s Office is currently determining how this fits together and whether adequate measures have been taken to secure the levees and flood protection in this context. The last two reports questioned two independent reports commissioned by the county government of Arnsberg and the city of Erftstadt.

Concerns about rising groundwater

At the beginning of 2021, the NRW Geological Service also indicated to the Arnsberg County Government that the terminal and terminal dams would no longer be able to withstand groundwater rise after the mining process ended. This is what was stated in a letter dated February 2021:

“On the part of GD NRW, there are strong concerns about the stability of the structure (…) approved by the plan for the dam system. Stability has not been demonstrated by any of the reports submitted so far. All reports have loopholes or defective.”
Statement from the Geological Survey of North Rhine-Westphalia

This is convenient if the gravel pit must be converted into a lake in the future. The Arnsberg County Government has reported this to the WDR: “The stability calculations attached to the application documents have provided evidence that the existing dams are stable. Random recalculations by experts from the city of Irvinestadt and the Arnsberg county government confirmed this in 2021.”

Minister of the U Committee on the flood disaster

The State Department of Economics informed the WDR that the correspondence between the Geological Service and the county government as of Spring 2021 was previously unknown to the Department. Economy Minister Andreas Pinkwart said:FDP), also on Friday before the Inquiry Committee of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia on the flood disaster. As the head of the High Authority for Mining, he is responsible for the safety of open-pit mines. But, according to Pinkwart, the attorney general’s office asked him to suspend its investigation until the investigation is complete. Investigators are investigating the suspicion that the gravel pit was approved for operation despite serious flood protection deficiencies.

Pinkwart doesn’t rule out other causes for this sagging

Pinkwart noted that it remains to be clarified whether the concerns actually apply to the south side of the mine, which later collapsed. Pinkwart said he does not rule out the authorities’ omission, but according to his experts, this has not yet been proven. The project owner in question had to regularly check the flood protection systems by competent persons. Records were kept about this, and according to these documents, there was no objection. To his knowledge, the cause of the gravel pit collapse is still unclear. This could also be due to a failure of flood protection at the top of the Erft.

Flood disaster mid-July 2021

In the course of the flood disaster in Erwistadt-Belsim, soil fell into a gravel pit and several houses collapsed. Storms with unusually heavy rain caused a flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in mid-July. Masses of water destroyed entire areas. 49 people died in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and preliminary estimates put the damage at around 13 billion euros.

In an earlier version of the article, the World Development Report did not say that geological service data relate to rising groundwater levels.

WDR reports on this in radio news, on WDR TV on WDR Aktuell on May 6, 2022 and on WDR-5-Westblick from 5:04 p.m.

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