In Europe, Dirty Coal Makes a Comeback

A lignite revival threatens villages, and progress on global warming
A lignite mine viewed from Jezeří Castle in the Czech Republic Photograph by Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

From the baroque castle where Beethoven premièred his Eroica symphony two centuries ago, Vladimír Buřt gazes down on giant excavators that eat into the ground around the clock, loading brown coal onto conveyor belts that fill waiting railroad cars. “There used to be a lake where we’d go swimming every day,” says Buřt, the deputy mayor of Horní Jiřetín, a 750-year-old village in the Czech Republic that could be destroyed if the coal mine is allowed to expand. “The Communists started this devastation, and this government wants to finish it.”

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