Matt Atlas

EU Court Orders Poland To Halt Lignite Mining At Turow

Poland must immediately stop mining at the Turów coal mine, which has long been criticized by the Czech Republic. The decision was made today by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which thus granted the Czech application for interim measures. The mining ban will apply until a final judgment is given in the case, the court said . The Ministry of the Environment and the Liberec Region welcomed the order to stop mining in Turów.

In February, the Czech authorities filed a lawsuit with the EU judiciary against the expansion of the mine, which, according to them, endangers the quality of drinking water for the inhabitants of the Liberec region. According to the Czech side, Poland violates EU law by allowing mining to continue without assessing its impact on the environment. Warsaw rejects this and recently approved an extension of the mine’s operations until 2044.

According to the court, Prague’s request for a preventive cessation of mining was justified, as it cannot be ruled out in advance that Poland is in fact violating the rules on environmental protection. It is also “sufficiently probable that the continuation of lignite mining in the Turów mine until the final judgment is delivered could have a negative impact on the groundwater level located in the Czech territory,” the court stated.

“I am very pleased for all our citizens and thank all those who help us in the legal battle for our environment,” commented the verdict of the Minister of the Environment Richard Brabec, who called him the first great victory in this dispute.

In a non-legally binding opinion last December, the European Commission concluded that the Polish side was incorrectly assessing the impact of the mine on the environment and had incorrectly informed neighboring states of its intentions.

The Turów mine supplies coal mainly to the neighboring power plant, and the PGE group, which owns the mine and the power plant, wants to mine there by 2044. According to estimates by the Business Insider economic website, the power plant covers about eight percent of the country’s electricity demand.

Last March, despite objections from neighboring countries, the Polish climate ministry extended the company’s mining concession for six years, which would otherwise have ended in April. The mine should expand to 30 square kilometers and the Poles plan to mine to a depth of 330 meters. People from the border region in the Liberec region, like the people of Saxony, fear increased noise and dust in addition to the loss of drinking water.

Poland has consistently rejected their objections. The lawsuit was defended, among other things, by the argument that the mine provides work for thousands of people, whose living situation would be significantly worsened by its closure. However, the court stated that Poland could compensate them for the loss and that environmental and human health concerns are more important. According to the court, Warsaw has also not shown that the closure of the mine would endanger Poland’s energy security.

If the Polish authorities do not respect the court’s verdict, the court may, at the request of the European Commission, impose heavy fines on the country. These are threatened by Poland, for example, in another nature protection dispute, namely logging in the Białowieża Forest. As early as 2018, the EU court ordered the cessation of large-scale felling, which threatened the local exceptional ecosystem. The Commission said in February this year that Warsaw had not fully complied with the verdict, but fines had not yet been imposed.