When something is referred to as “Europe’s biggest hole”, it’s not likely to be a pretty sight.
The Hambach opencast mine in Germany’s Lower Rhine basin sprawls across 85 square kilometres. Giant excavators mine lignite – aka brown coal – at a rate of up to 240,000 tonnes a day. That’s about equal to a football stadium piled 30 metres high with coal.
For photographer Bernhard Lang, who shot a series of aerial photos of the mine in May, capturing Hambach from above was the key to conveying its scale. “Watching these huge machines biting into the barren landscape reminded me of alien planets in science fiction movies,” Lang says. “It’s a really direct image of the human impact on Earth.”
The Hambach mine is expected to have exhausted its lignite reserves by 2040, at which point it will be converted into an artificial lake, filled with 4 billion cubic metres of water from the Rhine.