Polish coal utility PGE is being forced to face up to the risks its Turów coal mine will have for its business, reputation, and the health of tens of thousands of people across the country’s southern border this week, as representatives from three countries already suffering from its heavy impacts meet today to discuss its future at the official Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) public hearing.
The state-owned company – already struggling to find insurance, and with the impossible task of securing permits to continue operations when the current ones run out in less than eight months – is facing local and regional authorities, the Czech Ministry of Environment, citizens and civil society organisations from Czechia, Germany and Poland today in Poland’s Bogatynia, where both Turów mine and power plant are located.
PGE is seeking to extend the mine’s license until 2044, but has yet to prove that it will not impact drinking water – something residents across the border from it in the Czech Republic know is impossible, as they have already been forced to use their own resources to dig deeper wells for clean water (2).
“The expansion of the Turów Mine would have many negative impacts not only on its immediate surroundings but also on air and climate. The mine has already damaged groundwater reserves, leaving 30,000 local people at risk of water scarcity. The people in Czech Republic are against the mine,” said Nikol Krejčová, coal campaign coordinator with Greenpeace Czechia. “Approximately 5,000 people from the Czech Republic have spoken out against expansion of the mine, submitting comments as part of the ongoing EIA process.”
“Insurers and reinsurers are increasingly scrutinising projects like PGE’s Turów coal mine, and are finding them to be uninsurable risks. This, coupled with the threat they pose to the health of communities and their basic rights such as clean water, it is little wonder why more and more people are standing up, and authorities of all levels are listening to them. It is hard to imagine Turów mining licence to be prolonged past April 2020, given PGE’s gigantic Gubin-Bordy mine was recently cancelled under similar breaches of EU environmental law,” said Kuba Gogolewski, senior financial campaigner at Fundacja Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE.
“Turów mine, one of Europe’s deepest and largest, presents major environmental issues. Not only are we unsure of the mine’s impact on the availability of water – it could also make water unfit to drink. Expanding it poses further threats and these are not being fully represented in the environmental impact assessments done so far – which means people and the environment are in danger. The project must be rigorously assessed, as required by law – and if it cannot be completed in a way that complies with the law, it must not be approved,” said Ida Westphal, lawyer in ClientEarth Germany.