In August 2015, the EKO-UNIA team participated in a climate camp organized not far from the Gartzweiler open-pit mine in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). There, they met with the representative of local organizations which are demanding an immediate stop to lignite mining in open-pit mines in all of Germany, and with the Greenpeace organization. The camp ended with an activist protest, the result of which was the halt of lignite mining for several hours. The “Ende
Another open-pit mine in this region is Hambach. For the last three years, in the forest near this mine, there has been an occupation of the ground intended for the expansion of the mine. Activists live in tree houses, in tents and in self-built shelters. After the camp, the EKO-UNIA team went to Dusseldorf for a meeting with the representatives of the BUND organization in NRW.
BUND is a politically independent non-profit organization established in 1975, known also as Friends of the Earth Germany. Their main office is in Berlin. The organization has over 480,000 members and sympathizers, as well as several offices found in all the Lands of Germany. BUND is involved in nature preservation and environmental protection in many ways. The organization has a large group of volunteers who plant hedges, create new ponds, take care of protected areas and fight to preserve precious territories.
BUND focuses especially on sustainable development and a sustainable country policy. The organization works to use renewable sources of energy, to prohibit the production of genetically modified food and feed, and also to reduce the amount of toxic chemical substances in daily life. They always try to present alternative solutions.
BUND campaigns on a national and international level. They work closely with other Friends of the Earth partners. They often organize demonstrations in front of the EU parliament in Brussels and they also initiate public debate about environmental issues, as well as holding informal conversations with delegates at international conferences dealing with climate change. They have good contacts in the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Currently, the organization is running campaigns against atomic energy and coal, among others, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). They focus mainly on legal aspects. In the last few months, they won a court case, the result of which is that the German law concerning the resettlement of people due to open-pit mining should change; at the moment, energy companies are favored. Unfortunately, politicians are in no hurry to change this law. In 2015, for the first time in Germany, the inhabitants of a small village in NRW managed to win their right to stay on the land, which was supposed to have been intended for the building of the Gartzweiler II open-pit mine.
There is an environmental protection law in NRW which states that lignite mining should be reduced by 80% by 2050. At the moment, 70% of electrical energy in this Land comes from coal. A large part of the mined lignite is exported, but hard coal is imported from other countries, including Colombia and African countries. By 2018, it is planned that the last coal mine in NRW will be closed.
Position on the International Coalition project “Development Yes – Opencast Mines No”:
- BUND in NRW cannot make decisions about international cooperation;
- the main BUND office in Berlin is holding back from making a decision about collaboration on the project- they will declare themselves when an official International Coalition is formed;
- they wish to remain in contact and be informed of the project’s progress;
- a good idea is to point out the problem of lignite mining in all of Europe;
- Europe lacks a network that would serve as a means of information exchange regarding lignite.