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Lignite District

The Rhenish lignite mining region in western Germany is a rural area, home to 2.5 million inhabitants, where coal mines and power plants employ 10,000 people. Meanwhile, the availability of cheap lignite has supported the development of a strong energy-intensive industrial sector providing more than 90,000 jobs in the region. 

Lignite has been extracted in the region since the 17th century, with the industrial revolution giving rise to lignite mining industries and power generation starting at the beginning of the 20th century, which have continued to significantly transform the landscape since. While the area has a highly diversified economic structure, many of the other industries are directly dependent on the lignite-based electricity infrastructure. 

In 2020, the German Government adopted the Act on the Phase‐out of Coal‐fired Power Plants which involves the reduction and termination of hard coal and lignite-based electricity generation. In response, wind turbines and farms can be seen dotted throughout the landscape. 

The Rhenish Lignite District itself had started activities as early as 2014 to prepare and design this structural change process, envisaging an end of the lignite ecosystem in 2050, supporting the requalification and retraining of impacted workers in the region. Nevertheless, since 2020 climate activists have occupied and protested in the region, notably in the village of Lützerath, which is being demolished to make way for the expansion of nearby lignite mines.

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