Representatives of the Liberec regional government, Greenpeace Czech Republic, Frank Bold and local citizens affected by the serious negative impacts of Polish coal mine Turów came to the European Parliament today to hand over their petition against the expansion of the mine. The petition was signed by more than 13 000 European citizens in three months. The mine is located in Poland, on the border with Czech Republic and Germany, and Polish authorities are doing everything possible to extend the size and re-licence its operation until 2044.
Voices of citizens, local authorities, NGOs and governments of affected countries are reflected mostly formally in the decision-making process, while several EU directives are being violated. EU citizens are turning to the EU Parliament and the Commission asking them to stop this flagrant violation of EU law. The matter is urgent to them, since the current licence will expire in April.
Mining and coal burning in Turów is already causing water scarcity, air and noise pollution and fuels the climate crisis and, if the mine is extended, it is expected to put 30 000 people in the Czech region of Liberec out of water. Many Czech people living near the mine already depend on water-tank supplies, need to wash laundry and take showers at family relatives or neighbours. The powerpant and the mine Turów are also estimated to cause 120 premature deaths a year due to air pollution.
Milan Starec from local village Uhelná says:
“The mining activity in Turów has brought very hard consequences for us, citizens of the closest villages on the Czech side of the border. Our wells have either completely dried out or have become very unreliable, so we have no choice but to look for desperate solutions. Our neighbor from Václavice has to do laundry at his parents’ house 20 kilometers from his home, another family with zero water supply pumps it into their well from the local creek. One local farmer had to kill 6 cows last year, as he did not have enough water for all the herd. Many people share similar experiences. And at the same time mining company PGE is draining 40 litres each second from us that is being totally wasted away. The amount of water they drain into the river is equal to the yearly consumption of 350.000 people, the whole Liberec region. If the mine comes closer and becomes deeper at the same time, tens of thousands of people are in danger of losing water. That is why we came here with this petition to explain the current situation, what our life looks like right now because of the Turow mine and what it could look like if they extend the mining.”
Petitioners took all the national and trans-boundary steps available to prevent harmful impacts of this project but their voices are not sufficiently heard. Now they are alerting EU authorities that several EU legal norms are being violated: EU water framework directive, Liability directive, EIA and SEA.
EU institutions have already initiated some steps to review EU law violations. Petitions Committee granted an “urgency procedure” to the official petition. Several influential members of the Environmental Committee, including the committee’s chair and coordinators of the most important political groups, wrote to the Environmental Commissioner Sinkevicius asking him to treat the complaint regarding the Turów mine with urgency as well. The European Commission recently started EU Pilot procedure with Poland.
However, acute action is needed to maintain a coherent approach between EU policies, including European Green Deal and Transition Fund expenditures on the one hand and national projects, harming the environment and the health of EU citizens pushed through by national authorities, on the other.
Nikol Krejčová from Greenpeace Czech Republic says:
“Our organisation is trying to stop the extension of Turów mine not only for local negative environmental impacts but also for global impact of the mining and coal burning on climate. We are in the climate crisis now and we need to act not to worsen it. So it would be very irresponsible to continue mining and burning coal for the next 24 years. Czech government issued a negative statement in the transboundary EIA process and it wasn’t taken into account by Polish side at all.”