Protests near German village vacated to expand coal mine

BERLIN (AP) — Scuffles broke out on Monday outside a village in western Germany that is to be razed to allow the expansion of a coal mine, a plan that is drawing resistance from climate activists.

Activists threw fireworks, bottles and stones at police outside the village of Luetzerath before the situation calmed down and officers pulled back, German news agency dpa reported.

Protesters previously had set up a burning barricade, and one glued his hand to the access road.

The hamlet is to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite mine, despite protests from environmentalists who fear millions more tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere.

Activists have been living in houses abandoned by former residents.

The Heinsberg county administration has issued an order barring people from Luetzerath and, if they fail to leave, authorizing police to clear the village from Jan. 10 onward. Officials have called for a non-violent end to the activists’ occupation.

In October, the federal and regional governments — both of which include the environmentalist Green party — and energy company RWE agreed to bring forward the exit from coal use in the region by eight years to 2030.

But, amid concerns about Germany’s energy security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the agreement also foresees the life of two power plant units that were supposed to be switched off earlier being extended until at least 2024 and Luetzerath being razed to enable further mining.

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