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Environmental activists shut down lignite mine

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World Coal,

Environmental activists shut down the Welzow-Süd lignite mine and significantly impacted operations at the associated Schwarze Pumpe power plant in Lusatia, east Germany. The protests were organised by a group called Ende Gelände and included protestors from a number of countries.

Protestors arrived at the mine on Friday afternoon and occupied the site, with some chaining themselves to a coal excavator, forcing the mine to shut down operations, Peter Stedt, Vattenfall Press Officer, told World Coal. The rail transport link between the mine and power plant and coal storage area was also occupied.

At around 4:30 PM on Saturday afternoon, protestors also broke through the entrance gate at the Schwarze Pumpe plant, Stedt said, although they were quickly removed by police with 120 activists arrested. Those arrested were later released.

As a result of the protests, the company was forced to reduce operations at the power plant, prioritising heat supply to the nearby villages of Spremberg and Hoyerswerda.

The occupation lasted until around 3PM on Sunday afternoon, Stedt continued, when most of the protestors left the site, although those chained to the excavator remained until early Monday morning. Mine operations had resumed by 6AM this morning, despite damage to the mine excavator and coal storage area.

“I want to thank our employees for their considerate behaviour in these difficult circumstances,” said the Head of Vattenfall Europe Mining and Vattenfall Europe generation, Dr Hartmuth Zeiss, in a statement. “Thanks to this, further escalation could be avoided.”

The protests took place despite warnings that the planned actions would expose protestors and Vatenfall employees to “immense risks”.

“These are heavy industry premises, which imply heavy vehicles, electrical equipment and other dangers,” said Anne Gynnerstedt, Vattenfall’s General Counsellor responsible for security ahead of the protests. “Activists who intrude into the area take immense risks and expose themselves and our employees to serious dangers.”

The Welzow-Süd mine and Schwarze Pumpe power plant are part of the sale of Vattenfall’s lignite assets to the Czech company, Energetický a prumyslový, agreed as part of Vattenfall’s strategy to convert to renewable and other low-carbon energy production. The deal is still pending approval by the Swedish state. Vattenfall’s lignite operations currently employ almost 8000 people.

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