adds video mention, number of demonstrators according to the police, statements of participants
LÜTZERATH (awp/afp) – Thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday to protest against the planned disappearance of a village due to the extension of a coal mine, at a time when Germany could rely more on this ore to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.
Between 2,000 and 3,500 people according to the respective data of the police and the organizers gathered in Lützerath, in the Rhine mining basin, just a few hundred meters from the gigantic open-pit mine of Gazrweiler, one of the largest in the world, regularly targeted by environmental activists.
“We are here because we have to say ‘enough’. We cannot keep burning coal, the climate catastrophe is already here,” Alice Lange, an activist with the anti-coal initiative Ende Gelände, told AFP.
This village, like others, has long been condemned to disappear to allow the mine to expand further, despite the abandonment of this ore scheduled by Germany by 2030.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, the debate on coal has been revived in the country, which is very dependent on Russian gas, which represents some 55% of its imports.
In order to ensure the production of electricity while reducing its dependence, the German government gave itself the possibility at the end of March of “suspending” the closure of certain coal-fired power stations to replace Russian gas, while ensuring that the objective of phasing out coal by 2030 remains unchanged.
“How can we have confidence in the ability of the government to contribute to peace in Ukraine if it destroys houses and villages in its own country for fossil fuels?”, denounced Ilyess El Kortbi, Ukrainian activist of the Fridays movement For Future, quoted in a press release.
Lützerath has become the new rallying point of the German environmental movement. Activists have built huts there and are preparing for confrontation with the police. Greta Thunberg had visited the region last September.
“We expect the eviction attempts to start in the fall. (…). We cannot accept it and that is why we are staying here”, explained Zora Fotidou, from the initiative “Lützerath lebt” (“Lützerath lives”).
The coal that is in the basement of these municipalities will be “necessary from 2024” to supply the power stations, while the other mines in the region are closing, assures the operator, the energy group RWE.
Other hamlets are already completely abandoned. Most of their inhabitants have been relocated to new villages built a good distance from the mine.