Straining to hold back tears, their once-white helmets and overalls smeared with dust, seven miners in Germany stepped out of a metal cage on Friday bearing the last piece of black coal hauled up from 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) below.
Video source: AP
The ceremony marked the end of an industry that laid the foundations for Germany's industrial revolution and its post-war economic recovery.
The men at the Prosper-Haniel mine symbolically handed the football-sized lump of coal to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier with the words "Glueck Auf."
The ancient miners' greeting roughly translates as "good luck," reflecting the uncertainty of a life spent prospecting deep underground.
The Prosper-Haniel mine in the western city of Bottrop and another colliery in Ibbenbueren, 100 kilometres (62 miles) to the north, were the last remnants of an industry that once dominated the region, employing half a million people at its peak in the 1950s.
For decades, the mines survived only thanks to generous subsidies.
But in 2007, a political decision was made to phase them out, with a promise of early retirement or retraining for their remaining workers.
According to government figures, Germany's coal mining industry received more than 40 billion euros ($46 billion) in federal funds since 1998 and is slated to get another 2.7 billion euros through 2022.
Some of the money is needed to deal with mine maintenance and environmental cleanup efforts that include preventing parts of the Ruhr region from slowly sinking as myriad tunnels give way over time.
Steinmeier urged the miners and their loved ones to look to the future, but also to take pride in a culture of hospitality and openness.
The Ruhr region became a melting pot with the arrival since the 19th century of successive waves of immigrants, from Poland, Italy and Turkey, in search of well-paid work down the mines.
The end of deep-shaft mining is seen as a test for the planned closure of open-cast lignite, or brown coal, mines that still operate in Germany.
Germany still generates almost two-fifths of its electricity from burning coal, a situation that scientists say can't continue if Germany wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
But some in Germany fear that other sources of energy, mainly renewables, may not be sufficient to power an industrial nation, especially as the country also plans to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022.