robert harding pittman

CoalScapes + Info


Abandoned lignite coal mines in eastern Germany.

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Brown coal mining was one of the largest industries in former communist East Germany, with a long tradition, making the country self-sufficient in energy production. With the fall of the Wall came the beginning of the end of the industry, with tens of thousands of people losing their jobs. Most mines were abandoned and slowly the ground water, which had been pumped out over years, is being allowed to seep back in to eventually create a landscape of artificial lakes.

The mining industry offered much employment and gave people a warm home, yet many people lost their homes as well. In addition to the tremendous environmental damage, the biggest emotional, cultural and historical cost was for those 1000’s of residents who had to give up their homes as countless towns had to be bulldozed away in past decades to make way for mining. The people portrayed here are from the former 750 year old village of Heuersdorf in Saxony, which no longer exists, and which is now a giant black hole. (See RHP’s film project – “Coal, Earth, Home”.)

Currently, the German brown coal mining industry is trying to revive itself and continues to look for new mining areas. With the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, Germany wants to shut down its nuclear power plants, which has given a boost to the coal mining industry. Once again, towns are slated to be destroyed to make way for coal mining.