Czechs say Poland should allow inspections of disputed mine

The right for Czech experts to inspect a Polish lignite mine in Turow should be included in an agreement to keep the mine open, the Czech Republic’s deputy foreign minister has said.

The Czechs have gone to the European Court of Justice to get the mine, which lies close to the Czech border, closed owing to fears it could contaminate groundwater.

Martin Smolek presented the idea of inspectors to the Czech lower house on Thursday and said the proposal will be presented to the Polish side within the coming days.

An agreement on the matter could prompt the Czechs to withdraw its environmental impact complaint from the Court of Justice, which ordered the immediate closure of the Turow mine in a preliminary ruling.

According to the Czech government, the new Czech-prepared agreement includes the requirement that Poland shares all information on the mine's environmental impact, and on Polish measures to protect Czech groundwater. This could cost EUR 40-50 million, according to the Czech side.

Poland has so far refused to close the mine, calling the court’s decision "disproportionate" and a threat to the stability of the country's energy system.

At first the refusal prompted the Czech government to request a EUR-5 million fine to be paid by Poland for each day the mine remained open. But on Tuesday Smolek said that the court should not impose the fine immediately in order to give Poland time to react to the proposed agreement, the Czech press agency CTK reported.

The Turow open-cast mine provides fuel for a nearby power plant and the two enterprises employ over a thousand people as well as providing electricity to millions of Polish homes.