Garzweiler was a town in the Rhineland mining district. Now - in place of the town - there is the brown coal strip mine Garzweiler. Garzweiler I has claimed an area of 6,600 hectares and, since 31 March 1995, has been extended by an area of 4,800 hectares with the start of the ‘Garzweiler II’ project. ‘Garzweiler II’ holds, according to geological estimates, lignite reserves of 1.3 billion tons. Until World War II, brown coal strip mining, and with it the interference in settlements and cultural spaces, was limited to a sparsely populated and utilised space (Ville). Growing energy demand and improved mining technologies (deep strip mining) have since led to expansions of those areas.


    The economic use of brown coal started at the end of the 18th century. This ties the economic progress of Germany, and NRW in particular, closely to its coal mining activities. During the period of industrialisation, its independence in energy generation afforded Germany a rank of global significance that it maintains until today.
    By earlier standards, power from brown coal had the lowest production costs compared to other sources of energy14. Brown coal in itself is cost free. It is the most important national energy source and is not, unlike oil or gas, dependent on the global market and global politics . Despite the well-known inefficiency of brown coal, the tendency from various sides is towards a continued mining of brown coal. A continuous further development of and investment in new technologies makes it possible to reach ever deeper layers of brown coal. This removes the natural boundaries of brown coal seams that lie too deep down as an obstacle.


    Brown coal is formed over the course of many millions of years in swamp areas from decayed plants. The main period of its formation lies in the tertiary period (about 25 million years ago). Today, brown coal can only be found in a few isolated areas. The former bay where NRW now lies fulfilled all the conditions necessary for the formation of brown coal. Over the years, the current brown coal layer (or seam) has sunk lower. Hermetically sealed from the surface, the layer was exposed to high pressures and temperatures. This started the coalification process. Seams can occur in depths ranging between 20 and 350 me- tres and have a diameter of 3 to 100 metres. After having descended, the brown coal seams now lie under various strata of sand and rock, which are called ‘overburden’. More than ten tons of overburden need to be removed for each ton of brown coal to be mined.