Lignite has been mined from the Garzweiler coalfields for over 100 years. The mine originated in the town of Grevenbroich and its centre is now in the Rhein-Kreis Neuss and Heinsberg districts. Just as was the case before the mining operation commenced, the area in between is filled with large areas of farmland, which were re-established as part of the recultivation programme. Green areas and wind farms divide up the new plains, which now boast a high level of biodiversity, particularly of species that prefer open landscapes.
In its three-shift operation system, the Garzweiler mine and its 1,400 employees extract around 35 million tonnes of lignite every year. It is transported by conveyor belt and industrial railway to the power stations at Neurath and Niederaussem, where it is used to generate electricity.
The lignite deposits are found in three seams, which together are on average 40 metres thick. The lignite is located between 40 and 210 metres under the earth’s surface.
Overburden used for recultivation
In order to expose the lignite, the Garzweiler mine extracts a good 140 million cubic metres of overburden, i.e. loess, gravel and sand, every year. This is primarily used to refill areas of the mine where operations are complete. As of 2018, the Garzweiler mine also supplies loess to the Hambach mine via industrial railway. The Hambach site had previously only been reforested. In the next few years, an additional 1,000 hectares of former coalfield is to be repurposed as new agricultural land and fields.
The Garzweiler mine is recognised as having provided valuable recultivation areas in the Hohenholzer Graben, the Kasterer See recreation area, the Könighovener Mulde, Vollrather Höhe and the Elsbachtal valley as post-mining landscapes.
The Garzweiler mine is characterised by major transport projects: Along its western edge, it interrupted the course of the practically parallel motorways of the A 44 and A 61 from 2006 to 2018. The motorways had to be removed first before being rebuilt later. All costs were covered by RWE Power, of course. In order to maintain the flow of traffic, motorway junctions and sections of the A 46 were dismantled with considerable effort, expanded and equipped with noise protection barriers. From summer 2018, the new A 44 between the Holz and Jackerath junctions will commence operation; at the same time, work will start on dismantling the A 61 between the Wanlo and Jackerath junctions.