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Normalising corporate counterinsurgency: engineering consent, managing resistance and greening destruction around the Hambach coal mine and beyond

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 09:01 authored by Andrea BrockAndrea Brock, Alexander Dunlap
The German Rhineland is home to the world's largest opencast lignite coal mine and human-made hole e the Hambach mine. Over the last seven years, RWE, the mine operator, has faced an increase in militant resistance, culminating in the occupation of the Hambacher Forest and acts of civil disobedience and sabotage. The mine provides a European case study to examine the repressive techniques deployed by RWE to legitimise coal mining in the face of a determined opposition. Drawing on political ecology literature and work on corporate counter-movements, this paper peers into extractive industries and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagements through the lens of corporate counterinsurgency. We first provide some background to the mine and RWE's unique position in the German political economy. After explaining the rise of resistance, the paper then discusses counterinsurgency in relation to CSR by outlining the different techniques used to win the ‘hearts’ and ‘minds’ of people around the mine. This includes securing the support of political leaders, lobbying, involvement in social events, infrastructure projects, astroturf groups and ecological restoration/offsetting work, which combine with overtly repressive techniques by public and private security forces that together attempt to legitimise the mine and stigmatise, intimidate and criminalise activists. This paper contents that counterinsurgency techniques are becoming normalised into the everyday operations of RWE, naturalising its image as ‘good corporate citizen’ and legitimising and invisibilising the violence towards (non)human nature inherent in the corporate-state-mining-complex, as mining is becoming part of the ‘green economy’ and made ‘sustainable’.


German Studies Foundation

ESRC; ES/JS00173/1


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