Brown Coal

“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.”

Rachel Carson. Silent Spring (1962)


Germany still remains the largest brown coal producer in the world. Around 22 % of German electricity comes from burning brown coal. After World War II, what became East Germany lost access to energy produced by the more valuable stone coal in Western Germany. In order to generate its own energy, brown coal fields in Lusatia started to expand both in numbers and space till the German reunification in 1990. After that the opening of new mines decreased and the mines that couldn’t be privatized were closed down, leading to loss of jobs related to the coal industry. However, despite the decreasing numbers of active brown coal mines, the industry still remains crucial for German energy security and therefore still remains profitable. This year the German Government decided to phase out the whole industry by 2038.

This map shows the open brown coal pits (transparent), the closed ones (black) and the prohibited areas (black stripes) due to danger and caused by previous mining.

8.8% of the German Lusatian surface is claimed by the brown coal mining industry.

5,7 % of the German Lusatian surface consists of closed mining pits.

3,1 % of the German Lusatian surface consists of active mining pits.

2.6% of the German Lusatian surface is categorized as SPERRBEREICH, meaning prohibited areas due to danger, caused by previous mining.