PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic will sue Poland over the expansion of the Turow lignite mine near the Czech and German borders, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Monday, saying the expansion was damaging communities on the Czech side of the border.
Poland last year allowed state-run power group PGE to expand operations at its open-pit mine in south-west Poland to secure power capacity at a local plant.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said in a statement on Monday that mining at Turow had a negative impact on tens of thousands living in the border areas, and bilateral negotiations between Czech and Polish government ministers had not yielded a result.
“Therefore we will file the suit,” Petricek said.
The Czech Foreign Ministry said it would also seek an injunction that would halt operations at the mine, pending a ruling on the merit of the case, which will be filed with the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The expansion of the mine has upset environmental groups as well as Czech residents close to the mine. They have complained that drinking water supply has been affected and they have suffered from noise and dust as well as subsidence.
Petricek said it was a pity that the lawsuit was necessary when most of Europe is looking for ways to gradually phase out coal mining due to climate change.
PGE said: “The decision to extend the concession for the Turów Mine for 6 years was issued by the Minister of Climate on March 20, 2020 in accordance with the Polish geological law and there are no grounds for appealing against it.”
The Polish company said it had carried out large-scale consultations with the Czech Republic and Germany.
“During the process of applying for the licence, the Turów Mine intensively cooperated with the Czech and German parties in the scope of the environmental impact report.”
Poland and the Czech Republic both rely on coal for large proportions of their energy needs. The Czech government has been discussing whether to shut down coal mining in 2033 or 2038, while Poland plans to cease coal mining by 2049.
In December, the European Commission said that Poland had made errors in applying the provisions of EU directives on environmental impact assessment and access to information.
PGE has said that extending the operations at the mine would help it to increase national security of electricity supplies. It also said that its mining area would be reduced by half.
Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller in Prague and Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw; editing by David Evans and Jane Merriman