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31 Aug 2020, 13:50
David Reay

Coal mine protests in Germany and Poland highlight phase-out challenges

Die Zeit / Süddeutsche Zeitung

More than one thousand climate protesters, including activists from the Fridays for Future movement, Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, occupied the site of a planned opencast coal mine in western Germany on Sunday, leading to scuffles with security guards. Zeit Online reports that protesters climbed on to a coal excavator at the RWE-owned site in the Garzweiler coal region, where five villages are earmarked for demolition to make way for the new brown coal mine. The plans are part of the controversial coal compromise reached between the German government and utilities, which will see coal phased out by 2038 at the latest.

Meanwhile, another protest was to take place at an open-cast mine in Turów, Poland, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. The PGE-owned site, located at the meeting point of Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, was granted a six-year extension by the government in May. But the decision was deemed illegal by politicians such as German members of the European Parliament Anna Cavazzini, because no environmental impact assessments were carried out. The European Commission says the decision also violates its Water Framework Directive, as it affects water supplies in the nearby Czech city of Liberec. “We have to buy drinking water in the supermarket,” said citizen representative Milan Starec. PGE says the problem with the water supply is meteorological; the European Commission has offered to mediate in the dispute.

Germany’s coal compromise was hard won and its implementation by the German government and parliament has been criticised as deviating too much from the coal commission's agreement from 2019. RWE is one of Germany’s biggest coal miners, and is a regular target of protesters. The Turów mine supplies about 8 percent of Poland’s power and PGE has applied for it to remain open until 2044. Europe aims to be climate neutral by 2050. 

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