Court orders operations at German coal mine halted over environmental concerns
Clean Energy Wire
A major lignite (brown coal) mine in eastern Germany will have to halt regular operation on 1 September after a court ruled the mine's owners failed to prove its environmental safety. The administrative court in Berlin found that LEAG, operator of the mine Jänschwalde in the eastern state Brandenburg, could not demonstrate its mining operations do not have a damaging impact on the region's ground water supply and thus fall short of environmental protection regulations.
The NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) had brought the case against LEAG's operating plan, arguing it threatened protected swamp and wetland areas in the region. "LEAG meanwhile has admitted that it is very difficult to prove how a continuation of mining operations can be reconciled with conservation goals," DUH's Sascha Müller-Kraenner said.
LEAG requested an extension of the September deadline until the end of November, arguing that compliance with the "substantial" bureaucratic requirements of environmental safety licenses would take more time. "There's too little time for an adequate and thorough examination," LEAG said.
The court's decision to halt operations comes only days before Brandenburg elections that are partly seen as a judgement by the mining state's population on the federal government's coal policy. A government commission's proposal to end coal-fired power production no later than 2038 would have a substantial effect on the Lusatia coal mining region, which straddles both Brandenburg and neighbouring Saxony to the south, where state elections also take place on 1 September. Some 8,000 people in the Lusatia region are still directly employed in coal mining. LEAG in the past has been been accused of polluting local water supplies, with critics claiming that its mining operations raise sulphate levels in the Spree, the main river of Germany's capital Berlin.