Poland strikes back at Czechia over Turów coal mine conflict

Poland’s ongoing dispute with Czechia over the Turów coal mine is not the only environmental conflict between the two countries. In fact, Czech-owned mines operating the Polish border have been polluting Polish towns for decades, according to Polish mayors.

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: PAP/niezalezna.pl
Smoke rises from chimneys of the Turów power plant located by the Turów lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

After the European Court of Justice slapped a €500,000 per day fine on Poland for operating the Turów coal mine and with negotiations with the Czechs collapsing, Polish authorities are now settings their sights on Czech mines that may be causing environmental problems for Poles.

Polish Minister of Climate Michał Kurtyka ordered ministry-controlled institutions to verify information on the negative influence of the Czech-owned Janschwalde mine in Germany near the border with Poland. The step highlights how Poland may be seeking to exert pressure on Czechia over its refusal to allow the Turów mine to operate, which is seen as a vital source of energy for Poland, especially during Europe’s current energy crisis.

Spokesman of the Ministry of Climate and Environment Aleksander Brzózka explained that the investigation into the effects of the Janschwalde mine will be carried out by the Polish Geological Institute and the regional environmental protection inspectorate.

Brzózka underlined that the investigation concerns verifying media reports on the negative environmental effect of the Janschwalde lignite mine operation (which is located in Germany) on Polish border regions.

The authorities of the Gubin and Brody municipalities have pointed out that the mine, which has been functioning for several years, has had a detrimental effect on the local environment. It is allegedly responsible for the lowering of the level of groundwater, which forces regional governments to pay more for obtaining and purifying water. The German mine was purchased by a Czech company a few years ago.

Polish local authorities added that the owners of Janschwalde mine have rejected responsibllity for the issue and do not want to financially compensate the Polish regions when it comes to the additional annual spending.

Gubin and Brody have tried to settle the matter amicably for years and obtain compensation from the mine’s owner but to no effect. The municipalities never filed a lawsuit due to being unable to cover the costs of essential legal expertise.

Gubin’s governor, Zbigniew Barski, recently said that in the situation in which Czechia accused the Turów mine of destroying their environment and demanded its suspension via the European Union should also be repeated by Poland regarding the case of the Janschwalde mine.

“I do not think it so that we are the ones hurting the Czechs, but they are not hurting us. The current owner of the Janschwalde mine is a Czech company. Although it is true that the mine will be closed in 2023, the damage it has caused reaches back to the communist period. Without a doubt we can show the EU that the conflict over Turów is not a one-sided affair,” he explained.

Brody regional governor Ryszard Kowalczyk agreed with Barski and emphasized that the Janschwalde mine has been negatively affecting the Polish border regions for years. He added that regional governments have applied for aid on the government level many times but had always been left without a response.

Kowalczyk explained that strong evidence would be needed to support Poland’s case in the European Court of Justice. Such evidence would be expertise concerning the Czech-owned mine’s influence on the environment, and it would have to be carried out by highly respected scientific authorities.

Polish portal Money.pl recently reported about the problems with the Janschwalde mine. According to the portal, the mine currently belongs to the Czech EPH company. In 2019, extraction at the Janschwalde’s coal mine was suspended following the protests of German environmentalists, who pointed out that the mine’s activity threatens a Natura 2000 protected area.

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