GHOST IN TOWN
Documented by Matthias Drobeck
For the past few years, Immerath has slowly become a ghost town. German energy company RWE has taken over the land, constructing a new version of the village seven miles away. The village hospital was relocated, and its houses torn down and moved. Even Immerath’s cemetery wasn’t immune to the move ― its centuries-old bodies were dug up and relocated with the village.
RWE is seeking to increase its access to the region’s supply of lignite, or brown coal. This type of coal is mined in giant open pits. Brown coal is easier and cheaper to access than other varieties of coal, but it is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels to burn. That means the coal that lies underneath Immerath could end up producing billions of tons of carbon emissions over the next few decades.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has strived to be a leader on the world stage in tackling climate change. But Germany is still heavily dependent on burning coal for power. Some critics fear that phasing out coal too quickly would disrupt the country’s economy and lead to major job losses.
Although Immerath’s old village cathedral is gone, its memory is being preserved. RWE has built another village chapel in the new town it is constructing for former residents of Immerath. A miniature replica of the cathedral has reportedly been placed near the new town’s central plaza.
8. August 2015