Today’s Image of the Day comes thanks to the NASA Earth Observatory and features a look at coal mines in eastern Germany.
Here, soft brown coal called lignite is mined to supply a German power station. This coal mine is located in eastern Germany along the Polish border at the Neisse River.
On the left side of the image, large excavation machines tear up the lignite by scraping off the overlying layer of rock and replacing the lignite with the overburden material.
This photo was taken by an astronaut on board the International Space Station using a special long lens.
The mine is on the site of the ancient Hambach Forest which was purchased by RWE in 1978. They then cut most of it down and cleared it to mine. Only 10% of the forest area remains. RWE plans to clear half of the remaining area of the forest between around 2018 and 2020; this plan was met with massive protests in autumn 2018, and was temporarily stopped in October 2018 by the supreme administrative court of North Rhine–Westphalia (Oberverwaltungsgericht für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen).
Begun in 1978, the mine’s operation area currently (as of end of 2017) has a size of 43,8 km2, with the total area designated for mining having a size of 85 km2. It is the deepest open pit mine with respect to sea level: the bottom of the pit with up to 500 metres (1,640 ft) from the surface is 299 metres (981 ft) below sea level, the deepest artificially made point in North Rhine–Westphalia
Source: NASA Earth Observatory