By Will Owen
January 18, 2023 - RWE has released the following update regarding its coal activities:
On January 11, RWE Power started to demolish the former settlement of Lützerath. Mining operations will subsequently commence in the area. All necessary licences and court orders have been granted and all original inhabitants left the village some time ago.
The appropriation of the village is part of a comprehensive political agreement between the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy of The State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and RWE. The agreement was presented to the public in 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.
However, the coal under the former settlement of Lützerath, which is located close to the current edge of the Garzweiler opencast mine, is needed to make optimal use of the lignite fleet during the energy crisis and thus save gas in electricity generation for Germany. At the same time, sufficient volumes of material are needed for high-quality re-cultivation of former opencast mines. Independent reports commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia clearly corroborated the need for utilising the area under the former settlement. These reports as well as the political agreement are accessible to the public.
Measures put in place in and around Lützerath to protect all concerned parties
As one of the first safety measures, a 1.5 km long perimeter fence is being erected, marking out the company-own construction site where the remaining buildings, ancillary systems, streets, and sewers of the former settlement will be demolished. In addition, trees and shrubs are being removed. Then, Garzweiler opencast mining operations, which have already moved close, can start to expose the lignite for generating electricity in the region’s power plants and excavate sufficient earth and loess for designing attractive landscapes and re-cultivating areas previously used for opencast mining to a very high standard.
The appropriation of the former settlement of Lützerath is part of a legal process that has been ongoing for decades. The Garzweiler opencast mine stretching out across the area of the former settlement was approved as early as 1995. Originally, the small village had just under 100 inhabitants, who have by now all been relocated – most of them moved around 8 km away to Neu-Immenrath. Their relocation was completed in April 2017. A large part of the former settlement has already been demolished.
Company appeals for calm, acceptance of the rule of law and non-violence
Currently, only people who are illegally occupying the buildings and areas belonging to RWE Power remain in the former settlement. The company regrets that the planned demolition process can only take place under substantial police protection and that opponents of the opencast mine are calling for illegal disruptions and also criminal acts.
As a precaution, RWE Power wants to make protesters aware of the hazards associated with operating equipment and work processes and that they are impossible to gauge for people who are unfamiliar with the setting. Access to the sites is thus not permitted to unauthorised persons. Anyone who ignores these rules endangers their health and safety and risks prosecution. RWE is appealing to potential protesters not to trespass on company sites, not to participate in unlawful acts, and to remain calm during the protest campaign. Violence geared towards the police or other personnel on site is completely unacceptable.
RWE is appealing to the squatters to observe the rule of law and to end the illegal occupation of buildings, plants, and sites belonging to RWE peacefully. Nobody should put their own health and life at risk by participating in illegal activity.