Greenpeace to keep coal in the ground by buying some of Europe’s largest mines

Greenpeace to keep coal in the ground by buying some of Europe’s largest mines

Don't be fooled. Greenpace does not intend to enter the coal business. It just wants to buy mines and power planst to make sure they close down. (Image courtesy of Vattenfall)

In a seemingly shocking move, environmental group Greenpeace has announced it plans to acquire coal mines and power plants owned by Swedish utility Vattenfall, in eastern Germany.

But what the watchdog really seeks by buying such assets, one of Europe’s largest coal mining operations, is to transfer their ownership to a charitable foundation, paid for by Vattenfall and the German and Swedish governments, that would oversee the gradual closure of the coal field and six attendant power plants.

The Swedish energy giant decided to shed its eastern German lignite operations, after writing down the business by $1.8 billion in July, citing a drop in power prices and worsening business due to Germany's transition to renewables.

Greenpeace estimates the costs of phasing out the plants and replanting the nearby lands used for mining is about $2.27 billion (2bn euros). A sum they are, by no means, willing to fork out.

"We don't want to pay any money for it, it's worth nothing," Greenpeace Energy leader, Nils Mueller, was quoted as saying by AFP.

The group says it intends to operate the mine through 2030, though its main goal is to persuade both Vattenfall and the Swedish government to adopt a transition plan that envisions job growth in renewables, storage, power to gas and other technologies.

Vattenfall's eastern German operations employ around 8,000 in a region already affected by high rates of unemployment.