German activists lose bid to halt Hambach mine expansion – by Patrick Grobe (Deutsche Welle – November 24, 2017)

Cries of protest erupted in the Cologne Administrative Court on Friday after the judge ruled that development plans for the Hambach open-pit mine did not breach environmental legislation and could go ahead as planned. Conservation organization BUND, which filed the lawsuit, vowed to appeal the decision.

“We will continue to pursue all legal and political avenues to stop this irresponsible open-pit mine and to save what remains of the Hambach forest,” BUND’s managing director in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said.

The group argued that NRW authorities should never have approved mine operator BWE’s plans for the 2020-2030 period, saying the upcoming expansion would mean felling trees in the ancient Hambach forest.

Massive mine

The 85-square kilometer (52-square mile) Hambach mine is one of the largest open-pit operations in the world. Each year, the mine produces around 40 million tons of lignite — a brown, low-grade coal considered to be one of the most polluting fossil fuels. It’s also been the site of numerous protests calling for the German government to end its use of coal.

The land encompassing the Hambach forest is legally owned by the RWE group, so theoretically the company can do what it likes with it. But BUND had argued the area should be protected, because the forest provides a habitat to many endangered animal and plant species.

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