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
NameLignite mining Garzweiler I, Germany
ProvinceNorth Rhine-Westfalia
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tailings from mines
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Coal extraction and processing
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsLignite extracted per year 35-45 million tonnes, overburden 175-225 million tonnes
Project Area (in hectares)66,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population5,260
Start Date1987
Company Names or State EnterprisesRWE from Germany
Relevant government actorsNorth Rhine-Westfalia government, government municipality of Jüchen
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBUND (Friends of the Earth Germany)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationCreation 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…)
Otherhealth impacts of fine particulates
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
German energy turnaround and lead to closure of lignite power stations and the need of lignite mining
Development of AlternativesClose down of lignite power station, stop lignite mining, propose renewable energy
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

German constitution, German mining law


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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ContributorGabriel Weber
Last update24/06/2014