Consideration of affected populations in hard coal mining regions

What is the problem?

In 2018 the subsidies for coal mining in Germany will end and the last mines in North Rhine-Westphalia will close. But the burning of hard coal continues. Today we import about 50 million tons of hard coal per year to turn it into electricity in German power plants. That is more than twelve times as much as was mined nationwide in 2017.
From 2019, our hard coal-fired power plants will be operated entirely with imported coal, primarily from Colombia, Russia or South Africa. There, coal mining contaminates rivers, pollutes the groundwater with heavy metals and the high concentration of pollutants in the air leads to severe respiratory diseases among workers and residents. At the same time, land grabbing and violence are the result time and again. There are threats, even murders of human rights defenders and activists, who stand up for the rights of the affected population.

Through loans from the state-owned KfW IPEX-Bank and export credit guarantees, the German government has repeatedly promoted the export of German coal-fired power plant technology abroad. KfW IPEX-Bank also continues to finance mining companies that mine or burn coal on a large scale worldwide. Coal companies and energy utilities claimed that coal mining is a development engine for the Global South. However, as the example of the Cerrejón region in Colombia shows, open-cast mining offers hardly any new jobs, as advancing automation is making simple work increasingly superfluous and the majority of the local population lacks the necessary training for more qualified tasks. The coal companies, in turn, do not feel obliged to provide them with the necessary training. As a result, more people who suffer from poverty live in Colombia's coal-mining regions than in the rest of the country. For them, opencast mining does not mean prosperity, but the destruction of arable land and the destruction of their livelihoods through environmental pollution.

What is the measure?

-Representatives of those affected by coal mining demand that the import of hard coal by German companies be stopped as quickly as possible and that companies be better monitored with regard to compliance with human rights for as long as the import continues
-Until the end of hard coal mining, the German government must call on the energy companies to investigate the conditions in the coal mines in a transparent manner. If mining companies do not permanently respect human rights, this must be a reason to end contractual relations
-Public financing of coal technologies abroad must be stopped
-State actors together with companies must involve the local population in the mining regions in the structural change, provide them with further training and create sustainable income opportunities
-Development funds (e.g. from the state-owned KfW banking group) may only be invested in the promotion of the expansion of renewable energies and which are for the benefit of the environment and the people living there. 1

How will this counteract climate change?

By stopping hard coal imports on the German side, the subsidised companies in the mining regions would experience less demand. However, Germany is not the only importer; Turkey, for example, imports an even higher quantity of hard coal from Colombia. Nevertheless, the withdrawal on the German side would be an important sign and would of course save CO2.
The structural change, the dismantling of the mines as well as renaturation and the promotion of renewable decentralized energies in these areas is a necessary but lengthy process.


References to other measures

We see a direct connection  with the measures of energy democracy such as "Switch off coal - switch to renewable energies" and "Coal phase-out - scenario "all but dates 4


Further literature/sources


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