This Town Was Almost Swallowed by a Coal Mine

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The Garzweiler lignite mine will continue production into the 2040s. Photo: Tim McDonnell. copyright

Holzweiler, Germany, just escaped impending death.

A tidy village of stone houses clustered around an aging cathedral, it's only 40 minutes up the Autobahn from the modernist bustle of Cologne, the country's fourth-largest city. The drive winds past farms spiked with towering wind turbines, standard-bearers of Germany's nationwide green energy overhaul. But Holzweiler's quiet sidewalks are also precariously close to one of Europe's largest open-pit coal mines.

When I visited last fall, residents of Holzweiler and a cluster of neighboring villages had been living on borrowed time. The villages were in the way of the expanding mine, and locals had been told by the government that within a matter of years their homes would be bulldozed to get at the coal—the world's dirtiest kind, known as lignite—buried underneath.

Read the full story at Mother Jones.



Watch the accompanying film, "Up in Smoke":