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Case Study: The Rhine Ruhr region p176177
Describe the location and main features of the North Rhine Westphalia
North RhineWestphalia is the richest and, with 18 million people, the most populous of the
German states. The River Rhine flows through it towards its western edge. The largest town
is Cologne with a population of about one million. Within this state is the single greatest
concentration of industry anywhere in the EU. The RhineRuhr region covers the Ruhr
coalfield and nearby areas in the Rhine valley.
What types of industries have dominated the area today and over the last one
For over a hundred years, the region's economy was dominated by coalmining (a primary
industry) and by the secondary industries which depended upon coaltextiles, steel making
and smelting metals, heavy engineering and chemicals. Today heavy industries remain
important and oilrefining has been added to the list of consumer industries, food processing
is the most important.
What factors have influenced the growth of industry?
The Ruhr coalfield is Europe's largest energy supply, with massive reserves. The amount of
the quality of the coal attracted heavy industries. Such was the concentration of steel and
metal smelting industries in the area between Duisburg and Dortmund that they created their
own market. The smaller companies and lighter industries benefit from the location in the
state with the richest and largest market in Germany. The region also occupies a central
position within the EU, and benefits from a wider market of over 300 million people.
The River Rhine is used for water transport and links the North Sea and the worlds shipping
lanes. Moving bulky and heavy raw materials by barge is cheaper than using rail or road.
How has the Rhone Ruhr region changed since 1950?
Industrial decline in the RhineRuhr region has not been as rapid as in many other coalmining
and heavy industrial regions in Europe because of:
The amount and quality of Ruhr coal
The productivity and prosperity of German industry
The central position of the region within the EU
The water links along the River Rhine
However, there have been changes:
1) The decline in the number of workers in the heavy industry and coalmining has
decreased form half a million in 1950 to under 100 000 by 1995. Numbers have
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Some nontradition manufacturing industries are now well established. Motor vehicle
production climbed from sixteenth in order of importance in 1950 to fifth in 1995
3) A rise in importance of the tertiary sector, such as in Cologne, for example that has
become a telecommunications and media centre.…read more