Lignite mines

I had found some interesting urbex locations in Germany.
One of those locations was an anciënt Second World War monastery which, certainly due its history, is a beautiful object for urban photography.
Once arrived, the site proved to be closed with fences, barbed wire and razor barbed wire. (The latter is very annoying and almost imposible to enter without injury….)
Once on our way to find a way to get inside, several security camera’s spotted us…
In short, it’s a no-go….
Slightly disappointed we decided to stop here and return home….

On our way on back adjacent to the highway, we saw an area with huge excavators.
This must surely be one of the lignite mining areas.
Immediately thinking of the beautiful colors of the different layers of earth, big excavators, good light and…….. the stories of the abandoned villages in the neighborhood….. Still another piece of urbex?

I will return to those villages at a later time, but in the context of lignite mines there is also something to tell besides the taken pictures.
Brown coal is not the most clean and certainly not the most efficiënt fuel there is. Nevertheless, the power stations in this region are currently running on brown coal.
Apart from the environmental issues, it remains to be an innovative location to take pictures, certainly if you are aware of the fact that in a number of years this will not be visible anymore.

In western Germany, three lignite mines are active:

  • Garzweiler
  • Inden
  • Hambach


Hambach is one of the lowest aboveground sites on earth with 293 metres below NAP.
The total area is almost 32 square kilometres.

For these mines, several villages have been moved (so-called transmigration villages), however, the houses are only demolished when the mining industry comes close.
Until then, there are countless deserted villages (so-called ghost villiages) that are being demolished sooner or later. (More about this, keep checking out my blog…..)
Since 1950, more than 30.000 people have been bought out and moved to other locations and still 10.000 will have to move.

In the vicinity of Hambach there is a 40 to 100 metres thick lignite coated layer covered with 180 to 300 metres of earth and rocks. That large amount of earth and rock (sediment) must first be excavated.
In the early days it used to be done with shovels and wheelbarrows but currently worlds largest excavators work their way through the various layers.
These excavators are driving factories of 100 metres high, powered by electric motors.

Dig wheels with a diameter of about 21 metres run 24/7. Each wheel has up to 18 buckets, each of about 6.5 cubic metres in size.
The contents of the bins falls by the cutter wheel to the inside on a conveyor belt, up to 48 times per minute.
Daily they stow up to 240.000 cubic metres of rock. That is 12.000 trucks with 20 cubic metres of content……
Via conveyor belts, the lignite is transported directly to the power stations (Neurath, Frimmersdorf and Niederaussem) which together incinerate 40 million tons of brown coal per year.

The planning is that this mining will continue at least until 2040, after which they are going  to fill the huge hole with water in order to create a gigantic lake.

Were you aware of this mega industry?