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Green Village To Be Bulldozed And Mined For Brown Coal In Germany’s Quest For Non-Nuclear Fuel

Tony Paterson, The Independent on Sunday

Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), Chancellor Merkel’s Energy minister, claims that more lignite mines are vital: “We need strategic reserves of gas and coal power for the times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine,” he said.

[…] Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plan to end Germany’s dependence on nuclear power by 2022 is set to bring about the destruction of Mr Kapelle’s farm house and the rest of Proschim’s buildings. More than 800 residents including some 400 from a neighbouring village will be resettled.

Proschim is just one of a cluster of east German villages and farms set to make way for new lignite mines. The fossil fuel is intended to “bridge” a widening energy gap resulting from the closure of Germany’s nuclear power plants.

“There are not yet enough renewable energy sources to compensate for the loss of nuclear power,” said Matti Nedoma, a spokesman for Proschim’s Prenac farm complex. “So to meet the shortfall we are being told we must burn more coal and destroy farms and villages in the process,” he said.

Mrs Merkel unveiled Germany’s plan to axe nuclear power in 2011 in response to public concern over the Fukushima disaster. Eight of the country’s 17 atomic power plants have since been shut down. Now, although modern filters have reduced pollution, figures for 2013 show that Germany burned more lignite than at any time since 1990.

In June the east German state of Brandenburg approved the state-owned Swedish energy giant Vattenfall’s plans to extend its five lignite mines. The company plans to mine 200 million tons of coal from the extended open-cast pits from 2027.

The residents of Proschim are up in arms. A large billboard with a map of the area stands on a T-junction in the middle of the village. It displays 16 black crosses denoting the villages that have disappeared over the past decades to make way for new mines. Proschim is one of the red crosses denoting the villages now threatened with demolition.

Mr Kapelle’s neighbour, Martin Boslau, 65, says Germany’s politicians promised after reunification in 1990 that no further villages would be demolished to make way for coal. “That’s why we did up our house and helped turn Proschim into a jewel. We are not going anywhere,” he said.

Mr Boslau is one of more than 121,000 people who signed a petition opposing Vattenfall’s plans. The village is planning to fight the Swedish energy giant with court injunctions at every step.

But the pro-coal lobby has 68,000 adherents. Local politicians and Vattenfall argue the region has depended on lignite mining for more than a century. The company says it provides 8,200 jobs in the region and that 25,000 others are linked to coal. Opponents say the new mines will create only 700 jobs.

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