The General Directorate for Environmental Protection issued environmental approval for the Turów open pit coal mine. This makes it possible to grant a license for an extension of lignite extraction by PGE until 2044. The approval was issued despite numerous allegations of the negative impact of the open pit mine on the climate, water resources and the natural environment, and despite the opposition of the residents who live nearby the mine. Ecological organizations have announced that they will file a complaint with the Voivodeship Administrative Court, and demand the repeal of the decision and suspension of its enforceability.
– Due to the intense and irreversible negative environmental impact of the Turów mine, we maintain our position on this issue. In the court we will demand the revocation of the environmental approval, which, in our opinion, contains numerous defects. We must fight for every part of the environment inhabited by thousands of people from the Zgorzelec poviat and the neighbouring areas, which is also impacted by the mine's activity – comments Agnieszka Stupkiewicz, legal advisor from the Frank Bold Foundation.
The issue of the expansion of the Turów mine has been a source of controversy for years. Over the course of seven years of the proceedings, NGOs repeatedly demonstrated the harmful effects of the open pit on the climate and the environment.
Further expansion of this open pit mine could result in a complete lack of access to water for the local population. In order to meet the requirements of EU law aimed at protecting water resources, the Turów mine should cease operation by 2027 at the latest. “Therefore, it is high time to abandon the pipe dream of extending the operation of the mine and focus on building a strategy of weaning the region and the country off its dependence on fossil fuels,” said Tomasz Waśniewski from the “Rozwój Tak - Odkrywki Nie” Foundation (“Yes to Development - No to Open Pit Mines”).
As environmentalists point out, the real cost of the Turów mine is not just the debt that we are incurring towards future generations in terms of the climate crisis and ecological disaster, but also the billions of złotys that have already been spent from the pockets of Polish people. The Polish government agreed to pay EUR 45 million for the damage that the open pit caused on the Czech side of the border, while EUR 68.5 million plus interest was deducted from the EU funds for Poland for failing to comply with the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union to temporarily suspend mining operations.
– The extension of coal mining in Turów will also mean that the Zgorzelec poviat will lose hundreds of millions of euros from the Just Transition Fund. The investment in a new power unit in the Turów power plant, which cost over PLN 4.3 billion, also seems questionable from the point of view of energy security. Since the beginning of its operation in May of last year, the unit has experienced extended downtime caused by the need for numerous repairs – said Radosław Gawlik, president of the Ecological Association “EKO-UNIA”.
Meanwhile, the Polish government still hasn’t presented an adequate strategy on how to make Poland independent from fossil fuels. The recently announced update of the State's Energy Policy until 2040, which is the strategic document for the Polish energy sector, assumes further maintenance of coal plants, while the planned share of energy from renewable sources is too small.
“The demand for coal caused by the current crisis is only temporary, and its future is already sealed. In connection with the war in Ukraine, politicians are currently looking at this fuel with a slightly more favourable eye, but the conflict will come to an end sooner or later, and the need for decarbonisation will remain. After all, it isn’t the case that the problem of climate change has suddenly been rendered irrelevant by Russia's military aggression. Thus, instead of pursuing long-term coal investments, the government should focus on unlocking the potential of renewable energy production, which provides a guarantee of energy security, says Anna Meres, the coordinator of Greenpeace Poland climate campaigns.