Open-cast mining in the lignite districts of central and eastern Germany has affected huge areas of land, leaving behind entirely new landscapes characterised by their unique yet typical forms, in some cases bizarre and striking surfaces, and the absence of human activity.
What makes the eastern German mining districts particularly interesting is that at the beginning of the 1990s, more than 50 percent of the region’s disused mining sites had still to be reclaimed. Many went untouched for years and even decades. Rehabilitation work has since been stepped up and in recent years, nature conservationists have shown increasing interest in eastern Germany’s post-mining landscapes as many of them are highly valuable in terms of nature conservation and harbour unique development potential. This is largely due to the differing developmental stages that have evolved since mining activities ceased.
The sites have developed into characteristic habitats marked by heterogeneity, the absence of fragmentation, nutrient poverty, locational dynamics and the presence of numerous and often rare animal and plant species. The opportunity to preserve these structures should thus be seen as an important piece of contemporary heritage.
Rehabilitation and recultivation of the sites bring yet another complete change to the landscape. With the main focus on risk prevention, measures involving slope reinforcement, soil improvement, erosion abatement and cavity flooding all help to destroy the uniqueness of many post-mining landscapes.
While in recent years site rehabilitation measures have taken in nature conservation knowledge to a significantly greater degree than before, it is evident that for the most part activities still focus on the notion of reproducing cultural landscapes untouched by mining. This results in the loss of habitats typical to post-mining landscapes and so of highly valuable nature conservation areas. It also leads to the irretrievable loss of one of the region’s most prominent ‘hallmarks’.