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Dispute over mining at Turów heads to the negotiating table

Following the EU Court of Justice’s interim measure ordering the immediate suspension of mining at Poland’s Turów mine a few weeks ago, Poland and the Czech Republic have opened negotiations on the terms under which the lawsuit might be dropped.

The Czech Republic filed a lawsuit at the EU Court of Justice in February this year, accusing Poland of failing to comply with EU legislation by granting an extension to the mine’s concession, excluding the public from the approval process and refusing to provide information on the mine’s impacts.

The Czech government has now agreed on the framework for an intergovernmental agreement under which the Czech Republic could withdraw drop the suit.

“This includes a review of the existing concession processes in accordance with European law and the disclosure of all available information on the impacts of mining, which is the essence of the current lawsuit against Poland, as well as the coverage of the costs of building new and strengthening existing sources of drinking water on the Czech side of the border,” underlined Czech environment minister Richard Brabec. “These are the Czech Republic’s key requirements.”

“What the Czech Republic cannot do in proceedings before the Court of Justice, as is sometimes misinterpreted, is demand the permanent shut-down of the Turów mine,” underlined Martin Smolek, the deputy environment minister representing the government at the Court of Justice. “Even so, the order to halt the operation of the Turów mine immediately pending a judgment on the merits of this case has cleared a path to a prompt result that is genuinely practical and tangible for the local population and the environment in this region.”

It is therefore in the Czech Republic’s interest to agree on Polish commitments to implement specific measures and to cover the costs of dealing with the negative impacts that the Turów mine in Poland has on Czech territory, including the costs of action to mitigate current and prevent future negative impacts.

The 40-50 million euro that the Czech Republic is prepared to demand under the intergovernmental agreement is based on the Liberec Region’s estimate of how much it will cost, in particular, to build replacement water supply pipes in the Frýdlant and Hrádek districts and reinforce the Uhelná water source.

“I am confident that we will be able to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that will protect the people and the area affected by the mining while accepting that the mine cannot be shut down for good overnight,” said Martin Půta, the Liberec regional governor, of the government’s decision.

However, at the end of May, Poland’s energy group PGE published another document confirming that the Turów mine is operating in accordance with Polish and European law.

The decision on environmental conditions was issued in January 2020, following extensive transboundary consultations with the Czech Republic and Germany and after the fulfilment of a range of conditions specified in Polish and European law. According to the company, this was a key element in the concession prolongation process intended to further legally conduct extractive activities until 2044, on an area half the size of the area specified in the concession from 1994.

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