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Down to Earth

German villages sacrificed in the name of coal

By: Florence VILLEMINOT Follow | Marina BERTSCH | Sonia BARITELLO | Valérie DEKIMPE | Juliette LACHARNAY

In Germany, one of Europe’s largest coal mines is gaining ground, destroying dozens of villages in its path. Some 35,000 people have already been relocated and 24 new villages have been created to make way for the Garzweiler mine, spanning more than 30 square kilometers.

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Officially, Germany is in the middle of an energy transition, replacing nuclear energy with renewables. But that doesn’t mean the country has kicked its addiction to coal, which remains its primary source of energy. Extracting more coal means having to relocate the people whose villages are being swallowed by the growing mines. The Down to Earth team travelled to Rhineland to meet those who have been displaced by coal mining, and forced to abandon their homes, shops, churches and even cemetaries.

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