Germany's top court backs brown coal mining
KARLSRUHE, Germany Dec 17 (Reuters) - Germany's highest court said the rights of citizens must be respected when it comes to brown coal mining, but stopped short of interfering in an activity that represents one of the most profitable sources of power generation for RWE.
A widely awaited ruling on Tuesday by Germany's federal constitutional court said that any relocation and compensation for residents near RWE's Garzweiler mine, which could continue operating up to 2045, should be worked out early, so as to allow citizen's concerns to be dealt with appropriately.
But brown coal mining itself and the use of domestic raw materials overall was not in question, the court said, adding these matters were up to the government.
"Brown coal mining secures a sufficiently legal and sustainable public benefit," it said.
A negative ruling on the mining sector could have spelled an early closure for the mine and an important structural change to the power generation mix for utilities.
RWE in October denied a report it was considering the early closure of its Garzweiler mine, though it is pressing ahead with restructuring measures due to the unprofitable wholesale market for power.
RWE operates thousands of megawatts of brown coal-to-power capacity in its core North-Rhine Westphalia region and needs local supplies to fuel them, producing between 35 and 40 million tonnes annually.
German brown coal, also mined by Vattenfall, supplies 25 percent of the country's power generation. (Reporting by Norbert Demuth, Tom Kaeckenhoff, Vera Eckert; Editing by Mark Potter)
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