BERLIN (Reuters) - German utility RWE <RWEG.DE> might have to cut jobs at its Hambach site following a court ruling that will delay plans to expand the mine by clearing an ancient forest, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Saturday.
CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz told the Rheinische Post newspaper that it was not yet clear how many jobs would go, but it would discuss the matter with trade unions and the works council, adding he could not rule out forced redundancies.
A court in the German city of Muenster ruled last week that RWE could not start logging in the Hambach forest until a separate court had reviewed environmental claims, which RWE said would push back mining until after 2020 and hit its earnings.
The RWE mine at Hambach employs 4,600 people. Earlier this week, RWE said output at the mine would decline by 10 to 15 million tonnes a year from its current level of 40 million tonnes due to the ruling.
In a separate interview published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday, Schmitz said the hit to earnings would probably be about 100 to 200 million euros ($116 million - $231 million) a year.
Even if the clearing is allowed to go ahead, the lignite output of the mine will probably not reach previous levels, with Schmitz forecasting a permanent reduction of about 5 million tonnes a year due to the delay.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Gareth Jones)