Witnesses gave evidence of how a massive lignite mine near Bonn has created the largest hole in Europe, and as it expands is destroying whole villages and the ancient Hambach forest. The has existed for 12,000 years, contains 800 year old trees and is home to 142 protected species. The Bonn Tribunal (2017) heard this important case, happening a few miles away from the Tribunal and the Climate negotiations (COP23).
Hambach Mine is part of the Rhineland Lignite Mining Region. It is a large open-pit coal mine operated by RWE and used for mining lignite. Only about 7 square kilometres of the original 60 square kilometres of forest are left. The Tribunal heard evidence about how burning the lignite from the mine will exacerbate
global warming and cause severe pollution and health risks as well as diminish and pollute the groundwater which sustains the forest and other ecosystems.
It also heard evidence from young people who are living high up in the trees in an attempt to protect them from destruction, and of how they now have an intimate relationship with the trees and the forest.
The Tribunal found that further expansion of the mine must be stopped immediately, that the site should be rehabilitated as far as possible and that Germany should recognise the rights of Nature in law in order to prevent such projects in the future. The Tribunal also drew attention to the fact that it is necessary to cease all coal mining as soon as possible in order to mitigate climate change, and particularly its effects on future generations.