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Polish court discontinues proceedings in Tur?w mine case

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The Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw has suspended proceedings against the decision to extend the concession for the Tur?w mine until 2044, meaning that the mine, which has been the subject of a long-running dispute between Poland and the Czech Republic, can continue to operate unhindered for more than 20 years.

The Tur?w lignite mine is in southwestern Poland, a few kilometres from the Czech Republic and Germany border. It produces about 7% of Poland’s energy and employs approximately 3,500 people.

Based on a report provided by state-owned company Polska Grupa Energetyczna – the owner of the mine and the accompanying coal-fired power plant – in autumn 2022, the General Director of Environmental Protection (GDO?) issued an opinion that was a green light for the extension of the mine’s coal mining concession.

Based on this decision, and thus indirectly based on the assurances of the mine owner, in February 2023, Climate Minister Anna Moskwa issued a permit to extend the mine’s operation until 2044.

The DGO?’s opinion was challenged in court by environmental organisations from Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, hoping that the court would find inaccuracies in PGE’s report and decide to invalidate the extension of the coal mining licence.

On Thursday, however, the Warsaw court decided to discontinue the proceedings, the reason for which is the lack of a legally valid conclusion to the proceedings pending simultaneously before the GDO? at PGE’s request to amend the contested environmental decision. The court was legally obliged to discontinue the case in such a situation.

The environmentalists who challenged the GDO? decision do not hide their dissatisfaction.

“The fact that the extraction and burning of lignite does not offer any development prospects is obvious if only to the inhabitants of regions which, thanks to mass protests, have defended themselves against the construction of new opencast mines,” Tomasz Wa?niewski from the organisation Development YES-Opencasts NO, has said.

“The Polish energy system can cope without Tur?w, but the region’s inhabitants without their main breadwinner, as well as their water and heat supply – no longer. Therefore, it is time for the government to rectify the issue of squandering huge funds for the transformation of the region,” Rados?aw Gawlik from the organisation EKO-UNIA added.

“The inhabitants of Bogatynia have been living in limbo for years. The government keeps postponing taking care of their secure future. By forcing the extension of mining, it has condemned them to dependence on one employer, and with its political games, it has deprived them of one billion zlotys from the Just Transition Fund. We can wait for the court ruling on the environmental decision. But we can no longer wait for the end of the coal lies spread by the government,” according to Greenpeace’s Marek J?zefiak.

However, the court’s decision is not final.

In late 2021 and early 2022, a dispute arose between Prague and Warsaw, with the mine at the centre of it – residents of the Czech border regions complained that the mine was causing significant groundwater subsidence. At some point, the matter reached the EU level – and the Court of Justice of the EU ordered Poland to close the mine.

Warsaw did not comply with the order, for which Poland was fined EUR0.5 million per day for each day of non-compliance with the Luxembourg court’s decision. After years of back and forth, the dispute ended last spring when Warsaw and Prague signed an agreement on Turow.

(Bartosz Sieniawski EURACTIV.pl)

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