Germany – Case study 2: Lauchhammer

Lauchhammer is a relatively new town in South Brandenburg which was founded in 1950 by merging four municipalities to one and got city rights in 1953. However, Lauchhammer and its different parts can look back to an industrial tradition of more than 300 years. Its rise began in the 18th century with the discovery of bog iron ore deposits in the area which led to the development of metal processing industry. Even its name points to this history as it is a composite of the words “Lauch” (which is the name of a forest area nearby) and “Hammer” (another word for ironworks). In addition, the area around Lauchhammer is characterised be great lignite deposits which were exploited until 1990.

In the neighbouring town Schwarzheide, the chemical company BASF has one of its biggest production plants in Europe. Schwarzheide and Lauchhammer are classified together as so-called “Mittelzentrum” (mid-sized regional centre) which ensures the location of certain public services (e.g. secondary school, leisure swimming pool).

Population and landscape development

Already since the 1970s Lauchhammer witnessed a considerable shrinking of its population. The peak was in the 1960s with approx. 28.000 inhabitants. In 1990, the town still had almost 23.000 inhabitants whereas today the number shrank to less than 15.000. Today, Lauchhammer has a very dispersed townscape which is characterised by former mining areas within and around the urban area separating the different parts of the town from each other. With a surface of 88 km², Lauchhammer has four urban and three rural districts, the (topological) centre is a green area. As nature, industrial and living areas are very close together Lauchhammer is promoting itself with the slogan “…surprisingly diverse”.  

The former mining areas are both opportunity for landscape and nature regeneration but also threat as they are classified in great parts at hazard zones where landslides could occur. These geological conditions influence the development (in terms of the approval of both industrial zones and housing zones) considerably. Up to now, there was no overview about the areas which can be used for further development. Just recently a process started within which this task will be carried out connected to an overall town development strategy.

 

Lauchhammer centre – air view (Photo: City of Lauchhammer)
Lauchhammer centre – air view (Photo: City of Lauchhammer)

Lauchhammer and energy production – a close relationship

The lignite deposits around Lauchhammer are known since the late 18th century and mining started already in the 19th century. Latest since 1900 industrialisation also started in Lauchhammer and was mainly driven by lignite extraction and processing. Until 1990, eight briquette factories and one coking plant have been established within the town but closed soon after reunification.

Lignite extraction also fuelled the development of other industries, especially heavy machinery. Still today TAKRAF, a company producing systems and equipment for mining, bulk material handling, minerals processing, beneficiation and air environmental industries, is one of the biggest employers in the town. One of its products, the former overburden conveyer bridge F60, can still be visited in the area and is witness of the region’s industrial history – both of lignite extraction and heavy machinery. However, the intended German exit of lignite mining also affects TAKRAF which needs to reorient its economic strategy.

Since 2002 Lauchhammer is also engaged in the wind energy sector. The Danish manufacturer of wind energy plants Vestas decided to establish its new production plant for rotor blades in Lauchhammer. As Vestas is affected by the current decrease of demand in wind energy plants in Germany the company decided in 2019 to reduce labour force at the Lauchhammer factory of about 500 employees.

Vestas production site (Photo: City of Lauchhammmer)
Vestas production site (Photo: City of Lauchhammmer)

“Lauchhammer – surprisingly diverse”

Still today, a considerable share of job positions in Lauchhammer are located in the manufacturing industries. Besides TAKRAF and VESTAS, Galatea GmbH connects to the metal processing tradition in Lauchhammer with the production of bathtubs. The town is promoting its industry-friendly atmosphere and industrial tradition and still disposes about big areas where industrial manufacturing will be possible in future.

In addition, there is a certain amount of service enterprises with importance for the local employment market, namely the Archikart Software AG providing software solutions for municipal administrations, SGL providing services for landscape and nature regeneration, the hospital Klinikum Niederlausitz and the LKS Kabel Service which has provided state-of-the-art highspeed internet for the whole region. The mix of small, medium-sized and big enterprises in the town is complemented by small service, commercial and craft businesses.

In addition to these economic assets, Lauchhammer is promoting its high quality of life, result of the regeneration of the surrounding lignite mining areas. In the close environment, one of Europe’s biggest water landscapes has been developed (Lausitzer Seenland) which should attract in the nearer future both tourists as well as new and returning inhabitants.