April 14. 2024. 7:33

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Czechia-Poland dispute over coal mine settled, but locals still suffer

Czech and Polish political heads have settled the dispute over the coal mine Turow, but inhabitants of villages near the open-pit mine still face problems, EURACTIV.cz reported.

Czechia and Poland officially settled the long-term dispute by signing an agreement in February 2022. Part of this agreement was the withdrawal of the lawsuit Czechia filed against Poland in reaction to Polish authorities’ decision to expand operations at the massive lignite mine close to the Czech border.

The issue was politically resolved, even from the point of view of Czech President Petr Pavel, who recently visited Poland.

“Both sides commented on the dispute over the Turów mine in the sense that it is closed,” the presidential office told EURACTIV.cz.

The agreement included the construction of an underground barrier, completed in February 2022, which should protect local water sources. However, Czech organisations do not consider the agreement or the constructed barrier as a solution because it does not work well in practice.

Czech Geological Service, responsible for monitoring the impact of the mine, confirmed to EURACTIV.cz that the barrier had brought no positive effects to the Czech territory so far.

Another problem is a lack of information. While the agreement should secure Czech authorities access to data about the Turów mine, including its impact on water levels, not all information is available.

“The problem is that some of the information, the key ones, Poland has labelled as ‘trade secrets’ and banned their publication. Thus, the Czech Environment Ministry refuses to give us this information,” Milan Starec from the local organisation Association Uhelná explained.

Greenpeace has a similar opinion. “The excuses of trade secrets or even intellectual property are absolutely absurd,” said Greenpeace Czech Republic spokesperson Lukáš Hrábek, adding that local people and environmental organisations are not asking about the economic aspects of coal mining.

“In this case, the ministry is more friends with the Polish mining company than its own citizens, whom it should be protecting. It’s shameful,” Hrábek added.

The Czech Environment Ministry told EURACTIV.cz it disagrees with the criticism. The Ministry admits that it cannot publish some of the information demanded; however, it publishes all the information that Czech law allows to be disclosed.

(Barbora Pištorová, Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)