Original paper

Reclamation conditions of opencast mining in the Rhenish Lignite-mining Region (Germany)

Dickmann, Frank


The Rhenish (Rhineland) lignite-mining region covers an area of some 2 500 km2 to the west of Cologne, Germany. Miocene (26-6 Ma) age lignites are covered by more recent clays, sands and gravels. In this district the RWE Power AG operates four large opencast mines producing 96.2 Mt/a of lignite (2006). Large villages, farmland and major infrastructural facilities had to be removed completely to gain the lignite. In the 1950s and 1960s, the creation of extended opencast mines caused an increasing number of conflicts. For the first time, mining activities provoked noticeable resistance among the population who were no longer willing to accept the loss of fertile farmland and their homes. In many respects, a new strategy was required, beyond pure reforestation of stockpiles and filling up pits with water. Realizing the profound human impact on the landscape, the representatives of various institutions and organisations had their own ideas about later land use. It was not until the 1980s that the Federal Mining Act emphasised the careful handling of the land and more appropriate reclamation, bearing in mind the public benefit. Currently, tasks involving the systematic rededication of land use as well as implementing a reasonable future use will increasingly play a major role in lignite rehabilitation. Passionate debate over agricultural, forestry and recreation or large priority areas for nature conservation is ongoing.


opencast miningreclamationrecultivationrhenish lignite-miningrelocationresettlementreforestation