Hambach forest has been given a temporary reprieve form destructive logging after a successful legal complaint from environmental activists put the brakes on the coal industry’s plans to clear ancient woodland for an opencast mine.

On Friday 5 October, Münster Higher Administrative Court in western Germany ruled that clearance of the area should stop until the complaint from environmental group BUND is examined.

Forest clearing in Hambach was previously allowed as part of the opencast mine’s operating plan for 2018 to 2020.

The clear-cutting of the forest — an important site for protected species and a unique ancient woodland — is part of the mine’s expansion plan.

The destruction of a hundred hectares of forest has been scheduled by power company Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG (RWE) for the coming months. This includes the demolition of the Oaktown tree-house settlement built by activists who are putting their lives on the line to safeguard the woods, as previously reported by META.

The complaint issued by BUND refers to the designation of the forest as a Natura 2000 area. In 1992, despite meeting all required criteria, the Hambach forest was denied Natura 2000 status, which would have probably protected it from clear-cutting.

BUND, a member of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), has been involved in the protection of the Hambach forest for the past 40 years.

At that time, logging and mining activities started threatening the forest and its biodiversity. Today only 10% of the forest remains, according to RWE and environmentalists.

The exploitation of the mine is incompatible with Germany meeting its Paris Climate Agreement commitments, experts agree.

If ever extracted, the Hambach coal would supply RWE’s giant Neurath and Niederaußem coal-fired power plants, which are both among the ‘Toxic 30’ most harmful plants in terms of their impact on health, according to Europe Beyond Coal.