RWE reviews mine protest damage, says power plants not at risk

Garzweiler surface mine. Image courtesy of Flickr.

German utility RWE AG is reviewing damage done by environmental campaigners who accessed the company’s Garzweiler open-pit mine in Germany’s Rhineland on Saturday.

There were five arson attacks on pump stations and electricity transformers amid the protests, company spokeswoman Stephanie Schunck said by phone. Demonstrators also blocked railroads used to carry lignite to nearby power plants, demanding an immediate exit from the use of coal in order to combat climate change.

Electricity generation and other operations at power plants weren’t affected, RWE said in a statement. The company expects to return to normal open-pit mining operations later today, according to spokesman Matthias Beigel.

German police ended the protests Sunday morning, moving several hundred campaigners out of the mine. As many as 800 people protested at RWE’s lignite mine, according to police spokeswoman Ingrid Koenigs. Police are now removing demonstrators from the tracks of a coal transport railway between the power plants of Neurath and Niederaussem.

Police warned the demonstrators that entering the mine is trespassing and also dangerous as people risk falling into the deep pits.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government brokered a plan in January to wean Europe’s biggest economy off coal from next year with a complete exit by 2038. About a third of coal plant capacity could be shuttered by 2022 without disrupting supply. Utilities including RWE, Uniper SE and LEAG still need to figure out ways to realign their generation business and investments.

(By Alexander Kell)

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