Poland to keep contentious mine going despite court ruling

The government will use "all possible legal measures" to keep the Turow lignite mine on the Polish-Czech border running despite a Warsaw court suspending its environmental permit, the government spokesperson has said.

On Tuesday, the Frank Bold Foundation, Greenpeace and the EKO-UNIA Ecological Association, which were among the organisations that filed a complaint against the environmental permit back in November 2022, announced in a joint statement that the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw had found that in the case concerning the Turow mine there was a risk of causing significant damage to the environment and had suspended the implementation of the environmental permit for the project.

Commenting on the court's decision, Piotr Mueller, the government spokesman, called it "bizzare... because at the request of foreign organisations, there is a risk of destabilisation of the energy market in Poland."

"If someone suspends the implementation of a decision (the environmental permit - PAP) instead of considering the merits of the case and makes such a decision at this stage, unfortunately, it shows their intentions," he told private broadcaster Polsat News on Wednesday.

When asked whether there would be an appeal in this case, he said: "All possible legal measures in this regard will be taken."

The dispute over the Turow mine goes back to September 2021 when the European Court of Justice (CJEU) imposed a daily fine of EUR 500,000 on Poland for not implementing its demand to close operations at the colliery, which had been the subject of a legal complaint by the Czech Republic, which claimed the mine, thay lies close to the Czech-Polish border, damages the environment.

In early February, 2022, the case was removed from the CJEU's registry due to an agreement reached between Warsaw and Prague under which Poland paid the Czech Republic EUR 45 million.

Consequently, in September 2022, the General Environmental Protection Authority (GDOS) extended the environmental permit for Turow.

But in November 2022, the non-governmental organisations filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) against the Polish-Czech deal and the GDOS decision. They claimed the environment is still being affected, including ground water in the Czech Republic, yet Prague agreed in the deal not to do anything about it for five years.