Hundreds of climate protesters stage blockade in German coal mine

Hundreds of climate change activists staged a blockade in one of Germany's largest coal mines to protest against the country's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels.

(CNN)Hundreds of climate change protesters broke into a huge open cast mine in western Germany Saturday to protest against the country's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels.

The activists, many dressed in white overalls, evaded police officers as they crossed fields and roads, before descending into the vast Garzweiler lignite mine, located south-west of Düsseldorf.
The mine, which covers 48 square kilometers, is operated by German electricity giant RWE (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG) and produces raw materials used in coal-fired power stations.
    Organized by the Ende Gelände (EG) alliance, a German environmental protest movement, the activists staged a blockade against the police, sitting down in the center of the mine, covered with reflective blankets to protect themselves from the sun.
    Lignite, a type of coal, is mined at Garzweiler, south-west of Düsseldorf, which covers an area of 48 square kilometers.
    "We still have hope, the door is still open to a future within the 1.5 degrees C limit," Sina Reisch, a spokeswoman for the EG alliance, said in a statement. "But we will miss this last chance if we don't act immediately.
    "Today, we set out with thousands of people towards a future without fossil fuels, without exploitation and without this destructive quest for infinite economic growth."
    Nike Malhaus, a fellow EG spokesman, added: "Nothing less than our future is at stake. We will definitely not wait until 2038 to phase out coal, we are acting now.
    "If we keep burning coal for another 20 years, it is impossible to stay within the 1.5 degrees C limit. Today we are taking the coal phase out into our own hands because the government is failing to protect the climate."
    The activists sat beneath reflective blankets to protect themselves from the sun.
    The protesters were quickly surrounded by police and many were forcibly removed. Kathrin Henneberger, an EG representative, reported that the final protesters were removed from the mine Sunday morning.
    "It will continue all over Europe this summer," she wrote on Twitter. "Our resistance has only just begun."
    Saturday's protest came just a day after EG protesters blockaded the railway tracks leading to the Neurath power station, one of Germany's main coal-fired plants, halting the supply of coal.
    "This weekend, we have completely shut down the CO2 source in Europe, the Rhineland lignite mining area," Henneberger wrote on Twitter.
    The German government has only committed to phase out coal-fired power stations by 2038.