Hambach forest occupation against brown coal mining, Germany


The Hambach forest, located in Rhineland, Germany, has been one of the few remaining old growth forests in Germany. It has also been a concession area for the expansion of one of Germany’s largest brown coal open cast mines, operated by the RWE Power AG Company. Since 2012, environmental activists have been occupying the forest to avoid further deforestation as well as CO2 emissions driving climate change (1).

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Basic Data
NameHambach forest occupation against brown coal mining, Germany
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsConstruction work started on October 15, 1978 (2).

According to BUND (3;4), the project details are as follows:

Concessions period: 1978-2040

Areal requirements: 8,500ha, of which 4,100ha are old growth forests (Hambach forest)

Total coal stock: 2,400,000,000 tons

Annual coal production: around 40,000,000 tons/year

Annual CO2 emissions: around 30,000,000 tons/year

Annual fine dust emissions: around 480,000 kg/year, containing 500 kg of mercury, as well as cadmium, lead and other heavy metals.

Displaced population: 3,000 until 2014, 5,200 until 2030

No information on total investment could be found. Investment for relocating the highway amounted to 7,800,000€ (equals 8,834,592$ as of 10/02/2015) (5)
Project Area (in hectares)8,500
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population5,200 person displaced (plus negative health impacts on surrounding villages)
Start Date15/10/1978
Company Names or State EnterprisesRWE power (RWE) from Germany
Kötter Security from Germany - private security, services
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAktionsgemeinschaft der Bürgerinitiativen gegen die Verlegung der A 4;

Hambacher forst occupation movement;

BUND (friend of the earth Germany);


The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Otherdrastic decrease in air quality, exposure to heavy metals
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesActivists demanded the conservation of the remaining forest area, opposed the realignment of the highway and protested for climate justice and a general stop of coal mining. These alternatives could not be pushed through.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Although the environmental justice actions successfully delayed the project activities and brought large media attention to the issue, the project could not be stopped and is currently ongoing.
Sources and Materials

(4) WDR news on recent violence in the Hambach forest (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(5) RWE on the realignment of the highway A4 (accessed 10/04/2015)
[click to view]

(1) Blog from the forest occupation movement (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(2) Wikipedia on the Hambach open cast mine (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(3) BUND on the Hambach open cast mine (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

Media Links

Short video (english) about the Hambach forest occupation
[click to view]

Photos on flickr
[click to view]

Other Documents

KlimaCamp2014 - Hambacher Forst source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hambacherforst
[click to view]

Forest occupation and evictions source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) arnim.scheidel "at" gmail.com
Last update10/02/2015