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German lignite mine receives court backing

World Coal,

Germany’s constitutional court has ruled in favour of German utility company RWE’s lignite mine at Garzweiler. The court ruled that RWE could continue opencast mining operations at the coal mine.

However, legal protection for citizens affected by major projects that involve resettlement and expropriation has been strengthened by the court, which made such protection available at an early stage in such projects, thereby ensuring that concerns can be dealt with appropriately.

Today’s ruling could make it harder to obtain approval for opencast mining projects in the future. However, it will not have any impact on RWE’s Garzweiler lignite mine, which is located in the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia.

The 48 km2 mine produces around 35 – 40 million tpa of lignite, which is deposited in three seams which are, on average, 40 m thick. The coal lies some 40 – 210 m below the surface and is used entirely to generate electricity in nearby power plants.

In October, a German newspaper reported that RWE was planning to shut down the opencast mine earlier than planned, as coal-fired power plants become less profitable.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung said that operations would stop in either 2017 or 2018, depending on the date lignite has been mined from areas already cleared of towns and villages. The previous closure date was 2045, however, and RWE refuted the newspaper’s claims, telling Reuters that there were no “concrete plans| to shut down the plan as early as 2017 or 2018. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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