Environment: Playing That Ace in the Hole

West Germany uproots thousands to exploit its coal reserves

Some 20,000 people have been relocated. Forty communities have been resettled, at an average yearly cost of $20 million. And still the job is only partly done. In the coming decades, 10,000 more people will be resettled and other new communities will rise. The object of this undertaking: to tap West Germany's great lignite, or brown coal, reserves, the largest in Europe, without causing irreparable destruction to the landscape.

The center of this great dig out, which has attracted the interest of both industrialists and environmentalists around the world, is a 1,000-sq.-mi. area bounded...

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