Open cast mining in Germany

I stopped off today on my way to Aachen to have a look at the open cast lignite mine at Garzweiler. Apparently there’s an official viewing platform, but the directions I got from the official brochure seemed to bear no relation to the layout of the actual roads (or maybe I was in the wrong place) so I got to the edge of the mine by yomping across a ploughed field.

Open cast mining

It is difficult to fully capture the impression of suddenly happening on a gigantic hole in the ground. The landscape all around is completely flat, so as you approach you can’t even tell it’s there – and then all of a sudden there is a massive…. and I mean really extraordinarily huge… hole with machines the size of multi-storey car-parks scooping away at the earth as though it were ice-cream.

open cast mining

There is a massive network of conveyor belts carrying away the rubble which is being dug out. It looks from the edge of the pit rather like an insane model railway.

Open cast mining

The machinery used is so large that it feels more like a science fiction film than real life.

Open cast mining

Surely there must be an easier (and less destructive) way to generate electricity than this!



Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany

10 responses to “Open cast mining in Germany

  1. Well not wishing to be overtly political but nuclear energy is essentially cleaner and easier to produce (if the plant is properly maintained, of course!)

  2. We visited one of these during a university excursion. Your reference to a science fiction film is right on the money. There is no way to convey the size of those machines – and we were up close!

  3. David

    Laura, it’s not politics, it’s science. Nuclear energy is not clean if you include looking after the waste for 100,000 years or that nuclear accidents are inevitable. The recent Fukushima accident is probably the worst industrial accident of all time. A large part of Japan is uninhabitable. The impact on the Pacific may not be known for years. Radiation damages animal life – fact. It’s far too dangerous.

  4. One could cynically wonder why the brochure’s instructions were unclear. Could it be they don’t want to encourage people to see the destruction of the countryside?

  5. Hugh Collins

    Germany has huge amounts of wind and solar power. Could they lead the way with still more? Oh and turn the lights out when you leave the room!

    • Solar power in Germany is only really worth people’s while to install because of the government subsidies in the form of energy buyback at inflated prices… there is a lot of wind power around us too – though as ever, nobody actually wants a turbine farm built right next to their house 🙂

  6. Hans

    I think its harder to go and visit a cole-mine, where thousands of workers are doing their job, than visit Garzweiler. You can also contact RWE and book a guided tour into the hole and to the generator-halls of th Power-Plant. You may also visit Nochten (02943 Boxberg/Oberlausitz).

  7. You can find an excellent article on open cast mining in the Rhineland on wikipedia:
    Unfortunately it is only available in German.
    But maps and pictures are quite illustrative.

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