Project 13: Landscape Project Welzow

Landscape made from a giant’s hand

The Welzow-Süd open-cast mine lies between Spremberg and Welzow, where huge conveyor bridges and bulldozers raked up the soil and left behind a bizarre moonscape, a monotonous sandy desert with the same recurring patterns – the so-called »Kippenrippen« (dump ribs). By working together with the mining company and utilising a precise choreography of bulldozers and bridges, the plan was to create a landscape that was not only artificial but artistic as well – one that was quite different from the usual post-mining landscape. This ambitious plan, however, proved impossible to implement.


Work began in and around the Welzow-Süd open-cast mine in 1959. At the time, there were still about thirty working open-cast mines in the Lusatia area – all but five of which were shut down after 1990. Welzow-Süd is one of the five remaining working open-cast mines, and will continue to produce lignite until at least 2030 – and perhaps until 2050. The lignite seam here is particularly abundant, but is buried very deep – about 80 to 100 metres below the surface. This means that what miners call the »capping mass« is especially great – which in turn means that Welzow-Süd will be seeing a lot of spoil in the coming years. This »capping mass« includes one of the few hill areas in this otherwise flat area – which, like parts of Welzow, plantations, farmlands, and watercourses – is to be dug out. Open-cast mining initially leaves behind sandy, desert areas, which will subsequently have to be recultivated by the mining company according to a so-called »lignite plan.«


The aim of the IBA’s project here was to work hand-in-glove with mining to create a unique landscape, with special vegetation and unusual land uses. It was to be a whole new landscape aesthetic.

The idea of a unique landscaping project in a post-mining landscape began as part of an international »workshop for new landscapes« held by the IBA in 2001. Today’s strangely fascinating open-cast landscape was to be transformed into something new. An initial feasibility study commissioned by the IBA in 2002 first proposed a »desert/oasis«: by carefully choreographing the mining machinery, an area of about 700 hectares was to be filled to create a varied relief sculpture with hills, cones, and plains that would gradually become vegetated over time. In its centre, there would be an oasis. Step by step, this new landscape, which was to be created gradually as part of the 2030 mine recultivation targets, would supplant the real »desert« – the active open-cast mine. The plan was for this project to be created gradually over several decades, side by side with the mining.

Through discussion, however, it was realised that many questions remained unanswered. What kind of dust exposure would this kind of landscape create? What would the tourism implications be? Was this redesign compatible with the legally binding »lignite plan«? A fierce debate began, and the project attracted vocal criticism; it soon became clear that it would not be possible to implement it in the planned form. At a post-2005 round table of the working committee IBA-Landschaftsprojekt Welzow-Süd, representatives of local communities, the mining company, the planning authorities, and the agriculture and forestry industries discussed possible alternatives with the planners and with the IBA. But in 2007, the reworked plan also fell through for technical and political reasons. The IBA had to cease planning work on the project.

The now abandoned »desert« was in fact partially realised in Welzow-Süd: The mining tourism association Stadt Welzow e.V. offers a range of tours of the canyons, deserts and oases of the active open-cast mine, allowing visitors to see the landscape with new eyes. Up until 2010, new scenarios for developing open-cast mines were discussed as part of the EU »ReSource« project, which should provide fresh ideas for the future of open-cast mines in Lusatia and internationally.

Opening times

Points of view open to public all year round, guided tours in the open-cast mine upon request at Vattenfall Europe Mining & Generation

Our partners

Vattenfall Europe Mining & Generation
Stadt Drebkau
Stadt Welzow
Stadt Spremberg
Amt Altdöbern
Gemeinde Neupetershain
Bergbautourismusverein Stadt Welzow e.V.


Go by car to Landscape Project Welzow or by public transportation:

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last update: 1/26/2017 13:13