Growing concerns in Czech border region as Polish mine gets green light for expansion

Grube Turów (Foto: Anna Uciechowska, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Czech government has approved measures to monitor the environmental impacts of the planned expansion of the Turów brown coal mine located in the close proximity to the Czech border. The expansion was approved by the Polish authorities, despite Czech concerns that it would threaten water sources for villages on the Czech side, as well as severely increasing noise and dust pollution.

Turów coal mine, photo: Anna Uciechowska, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Czech-Polish dispute over the planned expansion of the Turów brown coal mine located in the close proximity to the Czech border goes back to 2016 when the Czech Republic first protested against the plan requesting information on the impact on water resources, agricultural land and other habitats, as well as air and noise pollution on the Czech side of the border.

Efforts to halt the planned expansion were unsuccessful with Poland arguing that adequate measures were being taken to protect inhabitants and land on the Czech side of the border from any negative side effects.

Approval for the project raised protests from both the Czech Environment Ministry and the Liberec region. According to them, the Polish side did not wait for the conclusion of bilateral consultations on changes to the land-use plan and failed to take the Czech Republic’s reservations into account.

The governor of the Liberec region Martin Puta says Poland’s assurances will be of little use when tens of thousands of people living on the Czech side of the border are left without drinking water.

According to the zoning plan the mine would be extended by 14.6 hectares towards the border with the Czech Republic. The proximity of the mine to one Czech village would be just one kilometre.

Villages on the Czech side have demanded a land barrier which would reduce the noise pollution but the biggest concern is over water sources in the area. According to Czech experts, wells and streams around the towns of Frýdlant, Hrádek nad Nisou and Chrastava in the north Bohemian region have already been drying up and the mine’s extension will make the situation even worse. An expert study suggests around one billion crowns will be needed in the coming years to provide 30,000 people from the area with drinking water.