Garzweiler mine

From Global Energy Monitor

The Garzweiler coal mine is one of Europe's largest open-pit mines, and is operated by RWE Power in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany.

Location

The satellite photo below shows the area of the mine North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany.

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Background

The Garzweiler mine currently operates in a 3200-hectare area, though it is approved for 11,400 ha of coalfields. There are 1.1 billion tonnes of reserves and 35 million tonnes of annual production.[1] Garzweiler’s Neurath pit – the core of the operation known as Garzweiler I – began around 1940, with Garzweiler II starting in 2006. Although the current operating license limits extraction to 2045, Garzweiler II, in particular, has proved extremely contentious, with its scope being cut back time and time again.[2]

This mine is responsible for supplying some of the largest power plants including the Neurath power station, the second largest emitter in the EU.

Production

Information on the mine's production is not transparent. RWE Power's website refers to production of up to 30 Mtpa (as of the end of 2022)[1], but no historical production levels are found in the company's reports. A German statistics report stated that in 2021, the Garzweiler mine produced 23.4Mt, up from 19.35Mt in 2020.[3] Global Data referred to production of 28.7Mt in 2021, however the statistics report is a more reliable source.[4]

No 2022 production figure was available, as of February 2024. However, total lignite production from the Rheinland region (which includes the Garzweiler coal mine, the Hambach mine and the Inden coal mine, increased from 62.6 Mt in 2021 to 65.29 Mt in 2022.[5]

Expansion and Coal Phase-Out

RWE, which received its mining permit in the 1990s, had plans to continue expanding the Garzweiler mine's Garzweiler II pit until 2038 — the date of Germany's coal phase out deadline.[6] Due to the fact that the mine operates in a fraction of its approved coalfield lands, it can effectively expand inside of its own lease without additional approvals.

Despite RWE's expansion plans, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is responsible for the lignite mines at Inden, Hambach, and Garzweiler, has stated in past development plans that the further expansion of these mines is not necessary.[7]

The planned expansion of the Garzweiler II pit would require the removal of several villages in its path, including Lützerath, and was expected to occur in 2023. With the agreement with RWE from October 2022 and the change to the coal phase-out law, it was confirmed that the vilalges of Keyenberg, Kuckum, Unter- and Ober-Westrich as well as Berverath as well as the three Feldhöfe will be retained, but despite the protests, the destruction of Lützerath could not be prevented.[8] It commenced in January 2023 and was completed a short time later.[8] In August 2023, RWE also cut the important transport connection between Holzweiler and Keyenberg with the L12 road.[8]

October 2022 and, among other things, is setting out to bring RWE’s exit from coal forward by eight years to 2030. This means that the previously planned operating time of the company’s coal-fired power plants has been halved. RWE is not receiving any additional funds to compensate for this change. An amendment to the Coal Phase-out Act concerning RWE’s early exit from coal has already been passed by both chambers of the German parliament. The accelerated phase-out will lead to the volume of lignite being extracted from the Garzweiler opencast mine being approximately halved, meaning that the villages of Keyenberg, Kuckum, Oberwestrich, Unterwestrich and Berverath, including the three farmsteads of Holzweiler (Eggeratherhof, Roitzerhof, Weyerhof), which are all still partially inhabited, will remain in place. So no further dwellers will need to relocate from these places.

The coal under Lützerath (which is located close to the current edge of the mine), is needed to make optimal use of the lignite fleet during the energy crisis, according to RWE Power. At the same time, sufficient volumes of material are needed for high-quality recultivation of former opencast mines. RWE Power committed to bring exit from coal forward by eight years to 2030.[9]

Financing

In January 2023, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) reported that HSBC had made a $340m deal with RWE to expand the mine.[10] The loan from HSBC was granted just three months after the bank committed to phasing out financing of coal-fired power and thermal coal mining by 2030 in markets in the EU and OECD. According to TBIJ, the deal was structured as a sustainability-linked loan, but there were no restrictions on how the funds were to be spent.[11]

Opposition

The expansion of the Garzweiler mine in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia threatens the existence of 12 villages that are home to 7,600 residents. Demolition of the first four villages is scheduled to begin in 2023. Acting under the name Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht – Human Rights Before Mining Rights – the alliance of villagers announced in September 2019 they would refuse an expropriation agreement with RWE under which the energy company would pay to resettle them. This would mean the company would have to apply to the regional government for formal permission to dispossess the residents. But the villagers said they would then challenge this in court.[12] In September 2020, villagers lodged a case with Germany’s Constitutional Court, the country's top court, in a bid to save their homes.[13]

In March 2022, the high court for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia rejected the complaints of the Lützerath townspeople. It upheld an earlier decision by a district administrative court which ruled that mining the coal under Lützerath is in full conformity with the planning decisions of the government, which assumed the coal would still be needed for power production well past 2030. While recognizing the “undeniable” climate and environmental damage caused by coal mining and coal power generation, the court ruled that climate protection measures don’t require the immediate phasing out of coal.[6]

Thousands of protestors gathered in the last village in the area, Lützerath, in January 2023 to demonstrate their outrage, with environmentalists arguing that expanding the mine would result in catastrophic greenhouse gas emissions.[11][14]

Mine Details

  • Owner: RWE Power AG
  • Parent: RWE AG
  • Location: North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany
  • GPS Coordinates: 51.0839989, 6.4529844 (exact)
  • Mine Status: Operating
  • Production: 22.6 Mt (2019), 19.35Mt (2020)[3][15], 23.4 Mt (2021)[3]
  • Total Resources:
  • Total Reserves: 1.1 billion tonnes (2016)[16]
  • Coal Type: Lignite
  • Mine Size: 3200 ha
  • Mine Type: Surface
  • Start Year: 1940
  • Source of Financing:
  • Number of Employees: 1400

Articles and resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Garzweiler mine, RWE website, accessed 2017 and 2024
  2. Open-pit lignite mine Garzweiler, Clean Energy Wire, 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The German lignite industry in 2021 (page 84)" (PDF). braunkohle.de. 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. "Europe: Five Largest Coal Mines in 2021". www.globaldata.com. 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. "Produktionszahlen des Braunkohlenbergbaus in Deutschland" (PDF). kohlenstatistik.de. February 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Germany to demolish village for coal, despite phaseout plans", E&E News Climatewire, April 13, 2022.
  7. Germany’s three lignite mining regions, Clean Energy Wire, August 7, 2018.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Garzweiler opencast brown coal mine". www.bund-nrw.de/. Retrieved February 2024. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |access-date= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. "RWE brings coal exit forward to 2030: Five inhabited villages and three farmsteads to remain, former settlement of Lützerath to be demolished". www.rwe.com. January 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "HSBC's secretive loan to a coal company bulldozing a village". https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/. January 2023. {{cite web}}: External link in |website= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 "COAL-POWERED CRISIS The cost of Germany's energy U-turn" (PDF). /ejfoundation.org. June 2023. {{cite web}}: line feed character in |title= at position 20 (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "Human rights before mining rights: German villagers take on coal firm", The Guardian, September 30, 2019.
  13. "German villagers want top court to save homes from coal mine", Associated Press, September 9, 2020.
  14. "Lützerath: German coal mine stand off amid Ukraine war energy crunch". www.bbc.com. January 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. "Coal phase-out 2030: Implications for the Garzweiler II opencast mine and the rescue of Lützerath". /coaltransitions.org. January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. "Lignite Mining in Garzweiler II" (PDF). www.bund-nrw.de. 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)