German energy giant RWE has dug a moat to discourage people from trying to enter the threatened Hambach Forest this weekend.

Coal bosses are worried that people taking part in a major protest planned for Saturday 6 October may try to enter the area to try to protect the ancient woodland, where clearing has continued despite the death of a journalist last week.

More than 800,000 people have now called on the government to stop the trees being clear-cut to make way for the expansion of a giant open-cast coal mine.

In scenes more reminiscent of the construction of stone age fortifications, a protective ditch has been excavated along the perimeter of the ancient woodland.

The leader of the German Green party in North Rhine-Westphalia responded in astonishment on Twitter, writing:

“I’ve seen it, but I still can’t believe it. RWE’s “lignite removal facilitation barrier” and “forest enclosure” at the Hambacher forest near Manheim will further escalate the situation.”

There has been growing international pressure on the German government to step in to resolve the situation in Hambach Forest, where environmental protectors have engaged in a protracted stand-off with contractors trying to clear the forest.

Last month the German evangelical church even waded into the debate by releasing a statement that questioned what the mine’s expansion said about the country’s commitment to climate action.

The Hambach mine is already the largest source of carbon pollution in Europe and experts say removing and burning the coal under the forest floor would make it impossible for Germany to meet the commitments it made under the Paris Agreement.

After many years of occupying the treehouses in the forest, the last environmental defenders living in the woods were evicted earlier this week.

People from across Germany and Europe are expected to join the major demonstration this weekend. More information is available (in German) on BUND’s website.