Hambach, the mine of all excesses

The years-long occupation of Lützerath ended on Monday 16 January. Environmental activists opposed the plan to expand an open-pit mine that is to engulf this German village. A few kilometers to the south, another gigantic pit full of lignite, the most polluting coal, tears the landscape: the Hambach mine.

In 1978, the operator RWE bought the forest of the same name. The exploitation of the basement, started at the same time, destroyed it to 90%. RWE planned to raze half of the remaining forest cover between 2018 and 2020, but protests led to the plan being canceled by the courts in October 2018.

At present, the mine occupies 43.8 square kilometers. Its surface is therefore comparable to that of the city of Lyon (47.87 km2), and it is equivalent to almost half that of Paris (105.4 km2). Eventually, it is expected to reach 85 square kilometers.

The place where Europe hits rock bottom

The lowest point of the Hambach mine, which is 500 meters below the surface and 299 meters below sea level, is also where the European Union touches bottom. Far ahead of its natural competitor, the Étang de Lavalduc, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, which is only 10 meters below sea level.

The site also hosts the largest artificial hill in the world, called Sophienhöhe. Built with the cuttings from the mine, it culminates at 301 meters and extends over nearly 13 square kilometers.

Great evils call for great remedies: in order to be able to exploit this gigantic lignite deposit, German industry had to produce monstrous machines. Thus, the Bagger 293 excavator, which is 225 meters long and 96 meters high, is the largest land vehicle in the world. It weighs 14,200 tons and can move 240,000 cubic meters of soil per day.

Six giant excavators, 23 million tons of lignite per year

In all, the mine uses six giant excavators of different models. The smaller ones can still clear 110,000 cubic meters of material daily.

Today, it produces 23 million tons of lignite per year. According to the site of the Hambach mine operator, RWE, the deposit met at its peak 5% of Germany’s total electricity demand.

Ecologists blame RWE, in addition to the destruction of the forest, for the exploitation of lignite, the most polluting of all coals. The mine must stop operating in 2029, in accordance with new national legislation. At present, the fate of the gigantic piece of land it occupies remains unknown.

Source : BBN NEWS

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