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German activists protest against mine expansion

April 23, 2022

As the energy debate rages on in Germany, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the northwestern village of Lützerath to protest against the expansion of a coal mine.

Protest against the destruction of a village Lützerath for the expansion of the Garzweiler lignite open cast mine
The demonstrators in Lützerath called for the expansion of the Garzweiler opencast lignite mine to be haltedImage: BERND LAUTER/AFP

Thousands of demonstrators gathered on Saturday in the northwest German village of Lützerath to protest against the planned expansion of a nearby coal mine.

The village has long been doomed to disappear to allow the gigantic Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine to expand further.

The protest was organized by environmental organizations such as BUND, Greenpeace and Fridays for Future, as well as by local groups. Organizers said around 3,500 people demonstrated peacefully at Lützerath.

About a hundred activists decided to protest directly at the edge of the mine, which regional police said can be "extremely dangerous." 

Energy debate in Germany

Germany is planning to abandon coal by 2030 as part of the transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, however, the energy debate has intensified in the country, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies, especially gas.

Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine in western Germany
Garzweiler mine near Lützerath is one of the largest open-pit lignite mines in the world.Image: Oliver Pieper/DW

To ensure sufficient electricity production while reducing dependence on Russian imports, the German government gave itself the option of "suspending" the closure of certain coal-fired power stations. The goal of phasing out coal by 2030 remains in place.

New rallying point for environmentalists

The largely abandoned village of Lützerath has become a new rallying point for the German environmental movement. Activists live there in tents, huts, and treehouses in a bid to prevent the mine's expansion. 

Only one local farmer refused relocation, but the operator of the Garzweiler mine, the RWE group, in March won a case to expand the mine.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who founded the Fridays for Future movement, visited Lützerath last September.

The coal from this area will be "necessary from 2024" to supply power stations, while other mines in the region are closing, according to the RWE group.

dh/nm (AFP, dpa)

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