Hambach mine

From Global Energy Monitor

The Hambach mine is a surface coal mine, operated by RWE Power in Niederzier and Elsdorf, North Rhine–Westphalia, Germany.


The satellite photo below shows the area of the mine in Niederzier and Elsdorf, North Rhine–Westphalia, Germany.

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With an area of 4,380 hectares (as of 2022) and an approved maximum size of 8,500 hectares, Hambach mine is the largest open pit mine in Germany. About 40 million tons of lignite are produced annually in this mine. An estimated 1,350 million tonnes of lignite are still available for mining.[1] RWE has extraction rights for the mine until 2040.[2]

The mine sits on the site of the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest, which was purchased by RWE in 1978 and largely logged and cleared for mining. Only some 550 hectares (2.1 square miles) of the forest's original 4,000 hectares have been spared.[3]


Due to the fact that Hambach mine operates on a fraction of its approved coalfield lands, it can effectively expand inside of its own lease without additional approvals. RWE had planned to clear half of the remaining area of the Hambach Forest between 2018 and 2020 to expand its operation.[4][5] However due to public opposition and Germany's subsequent commitment to exiting coal by 2038, this particular mine extension project has been shelved.


Since 2012, the protection of Hambach Forest has been a political issue for environmentalists. An area within the forest has been intermittently occupied by those opposing the clearance for lignite extraction. The first occupation lasted from mid April to mid November 2012. A second occupation started on September 1, 2013 and lasted until March 27, 2014, followed by a third occupation from April to October 2014. The fourth occupation period started in 2015 and lasted until 2018. It involved a settlement with around two dozen tree houses and numerous road barricades. The barricades were erected to prevent mining company and police vehicles from entering.[6]

The plan to expand the mine and cut down remaining forest land was met with massive protests in autumn 2018 and was temporarily stopped in October 2018 by the supreme administrative court of North Rhine–Westphalia (Oberverwaltungsgericht für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen).[4] On October 5, 2018, the Higher Administrative Court (German: Oberverwaltungsgericht (de)) of Münster ruled that the clearance of Hambach Forest by RWE had to stop immediately until evidence brought by BUND (a German NGO) concerning threats to the local Bechstein's bat population could be evaluated.[6]

In early 2020, federal authorities agreed that the Hambach Forest would not be developed, and RWE said it would halt logging.[7] By August 2020, Germany committed to completely phasing out coal power by 2038, which further provided protections for the remaining forest land. Today, the ancient Hambach Forest remains a symbol of the environmental movement in Germany.

Project Details

  • Operator: Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG (RWE) Power
  • Owner: Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG (RWE) Power
  • Location: Niederzier and Elsdorf, North Rhine–Westphalia, Germany
  • GPS Coordinates: 50.891826,6.5734464 (exact)
  • Mine Status: Operating
  • Production: 30.104 million tonnes per year (2020 estimate)[8]
  • Total Resource:
  • Total Reserves: 1350 million tonnes[1]
  • Coal Type: lignite
  • Mine Size: 4,380 hectares[1]
  • Mine Type: Surface
  • Start Year: 1978
  • Source of Financing:
  • Number of Employees: 4600

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hamback mine, RWE website, accessed June 2022.
  2. Hambach open-cast mine, BankTrack, last updated September 2, 2019.
  3. "Hambach Forest: Germany's sluggish coal phaseout sparks anger", DW News, January 19,2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hambach surface mine, Wikipedia, last edited October 23, 2019.
  5. Hambach: an ancient forest at the centre of Germany’s struggle with coal, TRT World, March 21, 2019.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hambach Forest, Wikipedia, last edited September 22, 2019.
  7. "Hambach Forest: Police again tackle anti-coal activists' eight-year blockade", DW News, June 23, 2020.
  8. Ten Biggest Producing Surface Mine in Europe in 2020, Mining Technology,06 Sep 2021.

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