1. Opencast mining and landscape change

With about 180 million tons lignite Germany is still and by far the leading producer worldwide. Therefrom 1/3 fall upon the Lusatian Lignite District – without a doubt mining is the economic driving force of the rural border region. Since the beginning of the 20th open- cast mining and lignite industry have turned the traditional rural region in a “man-made landscape”, with its very specific site conditions. Up to now the total devastated area comprises approximately 900 square kilometres, which is half of the nationwide claimed area. However, about 550 km² (61 %) of the removed landscape are already reclaimed successfully, with 10,000 ha agricultural land and 30,000 ha afforested. Below the line in theLusatian Lignite District is the largest artificial landscape in Central Europe and still there are 32,000 ha under management of the mining and reclamation companies, in reshape and looking for an adequate after-use.


2. Socioeconomic background and challenges

The comprehensive socioeconomic analysis reflects a quite monostructured region in permanent and wide-ranging transition, since the early 1990s starting with the closure of many opencast mines and upgrading facilities. Actually, there is a high dependency of coal- mining related suppliers on one single mining and energy company (LEAG). The other business services are not adequately represented due to the average quote of all German federal states. A further disadvantage, that should not be underestimated, is the very limited private investment in R&D – about one fifth of the concerned enterprises have no interest in R&D investment, also because of some bureaucratic and funding policy obstacles. Unfortunately, public funded institutes for applied research and innovation partnerships between science and industry are underrepresented. The same applies to innovative start- up companies. In addition, there is a ongoing demographic decline (-1/3 up to the year 2030) with a migration of well-developed young people and a strong ageing population. Thus, there is a fundamental need to maintain EU funds, applicable for cohesion in coal regions in transition.


3. Regional Innovation potential – chances

On the other hand, the border region has good conditions and development potentials for an interregional and the cross-border cooperation with Poland and the Chez Republic. Despite structural changes, there is still a high proportion of manufacturing sector, building sector and public sector with a permanent increasing sales performance. The identified regional innovation clusters beyond mining supply industry are energy technology, metal, and food industry, plastics and chemistry, transport, mobility and logistics. Alone over three quarters of all enterprises linked with the energy sector are looking positive into the future, whereby 86 % have national and international business relations (Poland, Chez Republic, Russia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, etc.).

4. Socioeconomic framework (indicators, base line 2018)

Landscape area: 11,582 km²; inhabitants: 1.16 mio.; municipalities: 208, thereof 65 towns, in the otherwise rural region there is only one defined upper centre with >100,000 inhabitants (city of Cottbus); average GDP by employees: 59,240 €; employees in active mining andreclamation (restoring mining): 9,000 persons, additional indirect and induced employment by mining: 15,000 persons; annual volume of orders associated with lignite mining and power generation: approx. 510 Mio. € annual turnover by 3,000 suppliers.

5. Major stakeholders involved into the landscape restoration and structural transformation processes

LEAG – Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG (active lignite mining)
LMBV – Lausitzer und Mitteldeutsche Bergbauverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (mining /landscape restoration)


6. Data source and references
  • Platform for coal regions in transition – Regional strategies and action plans by pilot regions Brandenburg and Saxony Brussels, Feb. 26th 2018, Mr. Dr. Klaus Freytag (Federal State of Brandenburg, Ministry for Economy and Energy), Mr. Florian F. Woitek (Federal State of Saxony, State Ministry for Economy, Labour and Transport).
  • Potenzialanalyse Bergbau- und Kraftwerkskompetenzen in der Hauptstadtregion Berlin-Brandenburg.Clustermanagement Energietechnik Berlin-Brandenburg (ed.), 2017.