Lignite mine expansion stopped in Czech Republic

Feature story - 13 November, 2008
Thirty of our activists have shut down a giant excavator in one of the largest lignite mines in the Czech Republic. We're calling on the Czech Republic to close this mine by 2012, commit to progressively decreasing their carbon emissions and to play a constructive role in the creation of effective climate policy.

Lignite (brown coal) causes global warming.

Volunteers from eight countries together with local people peacefully stopped the 50-metre high excavator and laid out a huge banner demanding an end to climate and landscape devastation. Other banners spelled out the fact that if the world does not immediately begin to phase out mines and coal-fired power plants the United Nations climate talks taking place in Poznan in December and Copenhagen next year are destined to failure.

The Czech Republic and Poland have attempted to torpedo new and ambitious European climate legislation and it is up to older EU members and particularly the current French presidency to stand firmly against the sabotage of EU climate legislation by some new member states.

Lignite is for losers

Lignite, often referred to as 'brown coal', is one of the most carbon intensive fuels. The Czech Republic has the world's second highest lignite production per capita and fourth highest CO2 emission per capita among all European states. If the mine, where our action took place, is enlarged - it is likely that Czech CO2 emissions from lignite combustion will double this century.

The landscape of Northern Bohemia, once called "the Garden of the Czechs", has been turned inside-out by giant open-cast mines in the last 50 years. During the communist regime, more than 80 towns and villages were destroyed and their inhabitants forcefully resettled.

Enlargement of these mines not only endangers the climate, but would also have a detrimental impact on local people. The entire town of Horní Jiřetín - home to two thousand inhabitants and a precious baroque church - will totally dissapear. Locals, with support from Greenpeace, have successfully held on for the last four years in the face of aggressive negotiation efforts from the mining corporation - ČSA.

Pending parliament act

Their hopes now lie with the proposed Mining Act Amendment, now pending in the Czech Parliament. The proposed legislation will provide a clear legal basis for the closure of all lignite mines.

"My country is coal-addicted and it is almost too late to heal it," said Vladimír Buřt, deputy mayor of the town of Horní Jiřetín, who participated in the protest. "Our national government promised the people of Northern Bohemia that it would start phasing out opencast mines 17 years ago. Now it is time to fulfil this promise. We strongly urge our parliament to adopt new mining legislation that will effectively protect our homes."

The action in the Czech Republic is just one link in a global chain. OurQuit Coal campaign - led by our flagship the Rainbow Warrior - supported by anearth shaped base station in Poland has been urging governments andenergy companies to quit coal and save the climate in Oceania, SouthEast Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean. And we're taking this message to the climate negotiatons in Poznan, Poland this December. 

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