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24 Oct 2019, 12:06
Freja Eriksen

NGOs call on coal mining state to protect villages and forest near mine

Clean Energy Wire

Leading environmental NGOs have called on the government of western German mining region North Rhine-Westphalia to protect villages and the embattled Hambach forest during the country's coal phaseout. Friends of the Earth (BUND), Greenpeace and DNR, which were all part of the commission that hammered out a compromise on how to organise the phase-out earlier this year, and Climate Alliance Germany, called on state premier Armin Laschet in an open letter to "immediately implement a moratorium that prevents further destruction" in Hambach Forest and villages near the Garzweiler lignite mine, run by RWE. This suspension of mining activity should continue until agreements on the closures of lignite-fired power plants in Rhineland have been legally decided, the NGOs said. Around 100 people living in the Garzweiler villages wish to stay where they are and should not be forced to relocate, they said. DNR president Kai Niebert lamented that nine months after the coal exit commission's final report came out, people in Rhineland are still waiting for clarity. "The ongoing shift of responsibility between the federal government and North Rhine-Westphalia must come to an end," he said. In September, Laschet released a joint statement, among others with Greenpeace and BUND, calling for the federal government's climate cabinet to submit a draft of a coal phaseout law to parliament by the end of October and to ensure that the Hambach Forest would be preserved.

Recently, residents of several villages threatened by the expansion of lignite mines in western Germany formed an alliance to challenge RWE's plans, demanding legal clarity on whether they could be forcibly moved from their homes. Last year, protests focused on the preservation of the Hambach Forest, an ancient woodland that RWE wants to cut down for coal mine expansion but which has become a symbolic battleground for climate activists from Germany and beyond. RWE long fought for its legal right to clear the forest but now says it is "quite possible" the forest will be preserved following a replanning of the nearby mine.

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