Spremberg, Germany: Thousands of activists sought Saturday to occupy several opencast coal mines in eastern Germany, to put pressure on the government to phase out the fossil fuel — a divisive issue in the country’s rust belt.

With painted faces and dressed in white, hundreds of campaigners sought to force their way into a mine by Welzow-Sued — in the Lausitz basin.

Further north-east, another few hundred also arrived at Jaenschwalde Ost mine in the morning, seeking to run into the mine while another 450 blocked a railway connected to the site.

Meanwhile, MIBRAG which operates another mine — the Vereinigtes Schleenhain site — south of Leipzig also said about 1,200 protesters blocked a coal-excavator, forcing the group to halt operations.