Czech-Polish mine dispute resolved but critics cry foul

Turów mine

A dispute between the Czech Republic and Poland over a mine on the Polish side of their border has been resolved, with the leaders of the two states signing a deal in Prague. However, locals in North Bohemia say they will lose out.

Turów mine | Photo:MEDIA WNET,  Flickr,  CC BY-SA 2.0

The Czech Republic and Poland were in dispute for a number of years over the Turow mine on the Polish side of their shared border.

The Czech government said that the lignite mine was draining water from villages on its side of the frontier.

The issue has also led to a standoff in already tense relations between Poland and the European Union.

Mateusz Morawiecki and Petr Fiala | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

Now, however, Prague and Warsaw have finally reached agreement, with a deal inked in the Czech capital on Thursday by Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki.

The former had this to say after the signing ceremony.

“We agreed that this deal is important for the protection of citizens who live in the areas concerned – with mining in those areas and the impact of them. And it is also important in removing a barrier in Czech-Polish relations.”

Illustrative photo: Mufid Majnun,  Unsplash,  CC0 1.0 DEED

Under this agreement, the Czechs will receive EUR 45 million in compensation. Most of this will come from the Polish state and the remainder from the mine operator, PGE.

Warsaw will also finance measures aimed at preventing the mine, which is due to operate until 2044, from negatively impacting communities on the Czech side of the border.

Mr. Fiala said this involved the building of an underground wall to prevent the outflow of groundwater from the Czech territory.

Turów mine | Photo: Greenpeace Polska,  Flickr,  CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

“The contract guarantees the underground wall will be functional. And if it is not – according to the deal – then mining can be halted.”

But not everybody is happy. Opponents of the deal say that it was, in the end, agreed at lightning speed and behind closed doors.

Milan Starec is from a local group in Uhelná, the closest Czech village to Turow.

Turów mine | Photo: René Volfík,  Czech Radio

“If only there had been negotiations that benefited the whole region, but that did not happen. On our side, the scar in the landscape will be there for many, many years. And it’s also disadvantageous on the Polish side. Because if PGE mines here until 2044, then the region won’t be able to access European transformation funds. So it will be dependent on coal as long as the mining continues.”

Most of the EUR 45 million being handed over by the Poles will go into the coffers of the Liberec Region in North Bohemia. It will spend this money on new water supply systems.

Uhelná | Photo: Roman Sedláček,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

However, Anna Kšírová from the Parents for Climate group told Mladá fronta Dnes that Uhelná only has enough water for five years. There is no way a new water system will be in place by 2027, she said.

Critics also say that nothing will be done to protect locals from pollution and waste.