Position paper of the Citizens‘ Initiative Bärenstein dated August 23, 2023

Bürgerinitiative Bärenstein


is a citizens‘ initiative uniting people of our region who are committed to a livable, fair, environmentally sustainable and future-oriented world. Since none of the established political parties in Germany fully represents the concerns of all our members, we remain independent of parties and reject any form of appropriation. We cooperate with all people who share respect for the opinions and dignity of others, even if they do not necessarily share their opinions. We care about respectful interaction with each other, with people outside our initiative, and with our nature and environment.


How it started


Bürgerinitiative Bärenstein was founded by people of the region in order to express their opposition to the plans of Zinnwald Lithium PLC, listed on the London Stock Exchange. These plans include a lithium processing plant and a landfill in the parish of the town Bärenstein which is situated near Altenberg in Saxony / Germany. Zinnwald Lithium GmbH (a wholly owned subsidiary of Zinnwald Lithium PLC), formerly known as Deutsche Lithium GmbH, acquired in a series of steps the exploration rights for lithium in the area of the village Zinnwald, originally granted to the company Solarworld GmbH in 2011. These exploration rights were later converted into mining rights valid until 2047.

In 2019, an overall operation plan was drawn up which was supported by the town of Altenberg at that time. This plan included underground ore mining in Zinnwald and the underground transportation of the ore to the Europark in Altenberg. It was planned to prepare the ore for further processing steps there and to transport it by trucks to Freiberg for processing. Originally, it was planned to mine 500000 tons of ore annually in Zinnwald. This overall operation plan expired in the end of 2022 because of non-utilization.

On July 5, 2023, the Upper Mining Authority Freiberg asked the public agencies of the region to comment on Zinnwald Lithium’s latest plans. These new plans include the construction of a lithium processing plant on 12.5 hectares of partially protected biotope and predominantly bio-certified agricultural land close to the town of Bärenstein. In addition, in one variant, 60 hectares of renaturalized mining area, which has developed into a unique biotope over the past 25 years, are planned to be converted into a landfill. If this variant is not implemented, the landfill is planned on 60 hectares of mostly protected biotope. This area is an important part of the largest contiguous mountain meadow (Bergwiesen) landscape in Germany, a cultural monument characterized in particular by protected historical stone ridges (Steinrücken).

These plans are contrary to the goals of the German government and the European Union, which aim for ecologically responsible and socially acceptable lithium mining. In some aspects, it is comparable to the activities of financial investors in South America and Africa.


We vigorously oppose these plans.


Our position on lithium and lithium mining:


Lithium is a significant raw material in the context of technological progress. It is widely used, for example, in cell phone batteries, electric cars, cordless screwdrivers and home storage systems. Our common desire is for lithium extraction to be moderate, environmentally and resource friendly, and socially acceptable. That is why we are in favor of cross-border ore mining of lithium in Europe.


Our demands


  1. The plans of Zinnwald Lithium presented in the handout for the scoping meeting in Altenberg on August 22, 2023 are to be rejected completely.
  2. The mining of mineral resources in the Eastern Ore Mountains (Osterzgebirge) must take place in full compliance with the current draft of the European supply chain law.
  3. Particular attention has to be paid to the prevention of environmental pollution, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.
  4. Operating permits may only be granted after the adoption of the European supply chain law, but only in case that the operating plans do not conflict with it.
  5. We demand to involve the citizens of the region Osterzgebirge into all planning processes right from the start. The handouts must be issued in German language, and any abbreviations and technical terms used must be explained in a glossary.
  6. Plans must be published in a way that the public can react appropriately. Despite a prescribed objection period, we require a prior publication of four or more weeks before the actual publication, which then has to take place without changes. In addition, it isn´t accepted to publish the plans between June 1 and August 31 of each calendar year, as well as between December 1 and January 15 of the following year.
  7. The mining of mineral resources in the Osterzgebirge must not be carried out in the sense of overexploitation and ruthless exploitation, in which all available deposits are exploited as quickly and ruthlessly as possible in order to bring the raw materials to the world market. Rather, the mining must take place in a way that ensures long-term security of the European supply chains in accordance with the European Supply Chain Act.
  8. For mining facilities, be it for production or storage, no sealing of natural surfaces may take place. Instead, existing industrial sites are to be used or the systems are to be relocated underground. If a small amount of sealing (less than 1 hectare) cannot be avoided, it must be ensured that equivalent compensation areas are created for it.
  9. The tax-relevant company headquarters of the operating company, its subsidiaries and subcontractors must be in Altenberg.
  10. It must be taken into account that the region has undergone a profound change in the last two decades, partly with funds from the European Union, which is characterized above all by the development of nature conservation, tourism and sustainable agriculture. We absolutely want to prevent the generation after next from having to go through this difficult time of structural change again.