German police clash with activists in showdown over coal mine expansion in Luetzerath
An activist stands with a flare at one of the tree houses during a sit-in protest against the expansion of the Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine of Germany's utility RWE, in Luetzerath, Germany, January 12, 2023 that has highlighted tensions over Germany's climate policy during an energy crisis. Reuters

Riot police backed by bulldozers removed scores of activists from buildings in an abandoned village in western Germany on Thursday in a second day of confrontations over the expansion of a coal mine.

Officers climbed ladders to reach protesters perched on roofs and walls in Luetzerath, which energy firm RWE wants to clear to expand its Garzweiler lignite coal mine.

Some activists threw stones, bottles and firecrackers at police approaching a building with a pallet truck, though the demonstrations were largely peaceful.

Under heavy rain, protesters in white bodysuits chanted "People got the power" and "Luetzerath stays".

Demonstrators have been occupying the village in the brown-coal district of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia for more than two years to try to stop the expansion.

More than a thousand police officers in riot gear moved in and started clearing barricades on Wednesday morning following a court decision allowing the development.

Police said they cleared one of the main buildings on Thursday. In their wake, bulldozers moved into the cleared areas, cutting trees and removing debris from parts of the site.

"The weather conditions are a big problem today. We now have to analyse carefully whether it is even possible today to clear tree houses without risk," Aachen police spokesperson Andrew Mueller said.

Protesters said hundreds of people were still holed up in the village, two of them in a tunnel under the site.

"We are ready to last here as long as possible and maybe even make it to Saturday so that all the people who are going to come to the demonstration will join us here," Milena Glimbovski, a 32-year-old activist, said.

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg plans to join the demonstration on Saturday, according to the Luetzerathlebt environmentalist group.

Police said on Tuesday it could take weeks to resolve the standoff over the coal mine expansion, which activists see as a symbol of Berlin's failing climate policy amid an energy crisis in Europe's biggest economy.

The Garzweiler mine extracts around 25 million tonnes of lignite every year, according to RWE. The company has said it supports both energy transition and a temporary increase in the use of lignite-fired plants to tide Germany through the energy crisis.