Czech-owned mine in Germany damages environment in Polish border municipalities

The Jänschwalde lignite mine, which was bought by a Czech concern a few years ago, has been causing environmental damage in the area of Gubin and Brody, Polish municipalities adjacent to the German border, for many years. The facility’s activity, among other issues, lowers the groundwater level, which means that local governments have to pay more for obtaining water.

The matter was touched on by the money.pl portal in a Friday article entitled “The Czech mine takes water from Polish villages. We could get back for Turów.”

The heads of these municipalities indicate that the mine does not feel responsible and does not want to contribute to the annual expenses of Polish communes resulting from the lowering of the groundwater level, and thus the need to build new, ever deeper wells and the increasing costs of water treatment.

For many years, the communes of Gubin and Brody tried to assert their rights amicably and obtain compensation from the owner of a nearby mine, but they never received the money. However, they did not go to court, as they cannot afford expensive expertise in this area, which would be necessary for such a trial.

The head of the Gubin municipality Zbigniew Barski said that in a situation where the Czechs accused us that the Turów mine was destroying their environment and demanded its closure through the EU, Poland should do the same in the case of the Czech mine in Germany.

According to the head of the Brody municipality, Ryszard Kowalczuk, in order to assert one's rights before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), one must have strong evidence, and in such cases these are, first of all, expert opinions on the environmental impact of a given mine.

At the same time, both officials expressed astonishment that the Polish government did not refer to their situation in its dispute with the Czech Republic regarding Turów.

Money.pl writes that the Jänschwalde mine is currently owned by the Czech EPH concern. The outcrop covers an area of 80 square kilometres,, for comparison, the Turów mine covers approximately 24 square kilometres. In 2019, mining at the Jänschwalde mine was suspended following protests by German ecologists who pointed out that the mine's operations endanger the protected Natura 2000 area. From 2020, however, the mine obtained a mining permit and is expected to operate until 2023.

In May 2021, the CJEU, responding to the request of the Czech Republic, ordered the immediate suspension of coal mining in the Turów mine. The Polish government announced that the mine would continue to operate and started talks with the Czech side. On September 20, the CJEU decided that Poland was to pay the European Commission EUR 500,000 per day for not implementing interim measures and not stopping production. Meanwhile, the negotiations with the Czechs ended in a failure, but Poland hopes they will resume after the new government in their southern neighbour is formed.

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