Protesters in Germany block tracks to disputed coal mine

Aktivist attend a protest march against the plans to clearing and grubbing the Hambach Forest for an open-pit lignite mine, near the city of Dueren, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2018. The second sentence on the poster reads: 'Humbi stay'. (David Young/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Protesters on Saturday blocked a railway line leading to a large strip coal mine in western Germany that has become a cause celebre for environmentalists amid plans to clear part of a neighboring forest to expand the facility.

Another group of about 40 people occupied an excavator at the Hambach mine near Cologne, eight of them climbing onto the machine.

Activists aimed to disrupt mining operations at the site run by energy company RWE. Thousands of people took part in Saturday’s demonstration, with police warning them to stay out of the mine. Police used water cannons to stop demonstrators crossing a closed highway and heading toward the site.

Separately, employees of RWE were demonstrating for their jobs to be preserved.

The area has seen repeated protests amid plans to clear part of the neighboring Hambach Forest to make way for an expansion of the lignite mine.

Earlier this month, a German court blocked the felling of the forest, saying it needs time to examine whether the woodland deserves protected status. Environmentalists argue that it does because of the bats that live there.

Environmentalists also say the continued extraction of coal runs contrary to Germany’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to prevent global warming.

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