Photographer Bernhard Lang captured these striking pictures of the Tagebau Hambach coal mine in Germany in May, photographing what appears to be a “barren planet out of a science fiction movie.” Lang told The Huffington Post that he was inspired by both the "formal visual aspect of the structures" and textures of the mine as well as a desire to show the extent of resource depletion.
The mine, the largest of its kind in Germany, is currently around 1200 feet deep and uses some of the largest excavators in the world. It has the dubious honor of being one of the biggest holes in Europe. Lang said he was struck by both the size of the mine as well as the quantity of soil and sand that must be removed from the earth to access the coal.
Germany has an impressive history of fostering renewable energy growth, especially the solar industry. The government has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent from 1990 levels and increasing the amount of renewable energy generation.
Despite these efforts, Germany still gets almost half of its electricity from coal. The accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 sparked a shift away from nuclear power in Germany, and much of the slack has been taken up by coal. Lang’s photographs show the impact that coal mining continues to have on the country’s landscape.
Lang previously told Fast Company that he feels the “images of opencast brown coal mining with its huge machines biting into the soil show quite directly the human impact on, and exploitation of, our environment". Open-pit mining, besides razing huge areas of land, can pollute water sources and cause air pollution. RWE, the company that runs the Tagebau Hambach mine, has also come under recent scrutiny for the number of people it is displacing to reach even more coal at the edges of current mines. 2,000 people in Germany now face relocation near a different RWE mine.
Lang told HuffPost that in photographing the mine he hopes to show "the need to find new alternative solutions to satisfy our demand of energy in the future."