A Coal Mine Is Devouring an Ancient Forest

Germany: The Hambach Forest is a 12,000-Year-Old Forest forest near the city of Cologne. It is one of the last ancient forests in the region and it is in danger of being scraped bare, mining for lignite, also known as brown coal, it is the lowest ranked coal.

The energy giant responsible for the destruction of Hambach is RWE. Besides mining for brown coal, RWE provides nearly half of Germany with its gas and electricity. The mining area is the largest single source of carbon dioxide emission in Europe.


The mine is a Manhattan size gash of wounded smoldering earth between Cologne and the Dutch border. Before mining began, Hambach sprawled nearly 14,000 acres and was the largest forest of the region. There are now less than 2,700 acres left standing.

There has been outrage amongst environmentalists and many demonstrations in the past years have tried direct action try to halt the deforestation, including tree sitting and human fences. This past September, activists squatted in parts of Hambach that still have trees to try to prevent further clean cutting. Environmental groups have also sued to stop anymore forest demolition.

Not only is it the last remaining sliver of forest that people want to save, but they care about what it’s doing to the environment and the larger climate, and the health of people has been affected. The mine is destroying villages and communities.

The RWE mine produces more toxic breathable dust than all of the dust from the cars on the road in the country. The radioactive dust has a negative impact on the locals, but it also reaches cities over an hour away from the site.

RWE claims they have legal right to mine in Hambach and they don’t feel satisfied with the size of the mine as it is. They want to clearcut even more of the precious 12,000 year old forest to scrape up the earth for even more brown coal.

Protesters see Hambach as both a threat to an ancient forest and a wrong-turn in Germany’s effort to curtail emissions from Europe’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide. Trees have stood at Hambach since the end of the last ice age.

The conflict reached a head in mid-September, when police swooped in to evict protesters, who had built tree houses on the site and sued to stop RWE from going further, noting the mine threatens not only the trees, but also the homes of dozens of rare species including badgers and bats. Actions continued with protests and blockades.

Back at the mine, workers held a counter-protest against a closure in October. The laborers are concerned they will be out of work and without livelihoods.




Photos in order top to bottom:

“Colorpallet” by Malcolm Kratz is in the Public Domain

“garzweiler.bagger” by Tobias Mandt is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Tagebau Hambach” by Silvision is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0