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Lignite mining Garzweiler I, Germany


Garzweiler I is a large surface mine in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia. It is operated by RWE and used for mining lignite. The mine is located west of Grevenbroich and exploitation is progressing towards Erkelenz. Mining was originally limited to the 66.0 km² area Garzweiler I located east of motorway A 44. Mining in the 48.0 km² Garzweiler II sector started in 2006 (see Immerath, Garzweiler I conflict) and it will take until around 2045 to fully exploit both sectors. The lignite is used for power generation at nearby power plants such as Neurath. For the Garzweiler I mine people from several municipalities (Reisdorf, Garzweiler, Priesterath, Stolzenberg, Elfgen, Belmen, Morken-Harff, Epprath, Omagen, Königshoven, Otzenrath, Spenrath, Holz) had to be moved. Resistance against relocation were particularly strong in Otzenratz were people protested with lighting chains. In 1995 a citizen survey advocated a suit of the community before the Constitutional Court of Münster, which was however rejected. In 2000, the resettlement of most residents began (about 80 percent) to the new location, which was completed by 2007. In 2008 a last resistance was organized by the BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany), which occupied its own orchard on the edge of the pit.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lignite mining Garzweiler I, Germany
State or province:North Rhine-Westfalia
Location of conflict:Garzweiler
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Tailings from mines
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Lignite extracted per year 35-45 million tonnes, overburden 175-225 million tonnes

Project area:66,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:5,260
Start of the conflict:1987
Company names or state enterprises:RWE from Germany
Relevant government actors:North Rhine-Westfalia government, government municipality of Jüchen
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Noise pollution, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactshealth impacts of fine particulates
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
German energy turnaround and lead to closure of lignite power stations and the need of lignite mining
Proposal and development of alternatives:Close down of lignite power station, stop lignite mining, propose renewable energy
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:All people, that have been living in the area have been relocated. Most recently RWE power is considering to close down some nearby lignite power stations. While this may help people from the area of Immerath/ Garzweiler II, in the area of Garzweler I relocation of people is already finished.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

German constitution, German mining law

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Bergmann, A. (1999). Hydrogeochemische Untersuchungen anoxischer Redoxprozesse in tiefen Porengrundwasserleitern der Niederrheinischen Bucht-im Umfeld des Tagebaus Garzweiler I. Inst. für Geologie, Ruhr-Univ..

Obermann, P., & Wisotzky, F. (1998). Auswirkungen der Pyritoxidation im Bereich des Braunkohlentagebaus Garzweiler auf die Qualität des Kippengrundwassers-Möglichkeiten und Maßnahmen der Qualitätsverbesserung. Deutsche Gewässerkundliche Mitteilungen, 42(6), 234-240.

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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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Meta information
Contributor:Gabriel Weber
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:299
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