Poland faces 500,000 euro daily fine for ignoring coal mine ban

The Turów coal mine. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Poland insisted it won’t stop extracting coal at the Turow lignite mine near the Czech border even after hearing it faces a daily 500,000 euro ($586,000) fine for ignoring a European Union court order to shut down operations.

The EU Court of Justice on Monday said Poland had to pay the European Commission after failing to comply with a May 21 demand to immediately halt the mining, which has stoked a diplomatic row over environmental concerns. Poland can’t afford to switch off the mine and a nearby power plant as it would pose a risk to the country’s energy security, a government spokesman said in a statement.

Poland and the Czech Republic, which in June called for a daily penalty of 5 million euros, have been locked in talks for months to resolve the row over Turow. Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec has said that his nation wants assurances from Poland that continued operations at the mine won’t create environmental damage on the Czech side of the border.

The latest ruling could make it harder to resolve the Polish-Czech dispute over the mine, which Poland still seeks, according to the government’s statement. The EU’s most coal-intensive economy, which uses the fuel for 70% of power generation, has plans to cut its reliance on it over the next two decades as it seeks to replace coal with offshore wind and nuclear power among others.

The EU court said in its order that “it is unequivocally clear” that Poland “did not comply” with the tribunal’s previous order to stop its activities in the mine. The daily fine should deter Poland “from delaying bringing its conduct into line with that order,” the court said.

“The decision is quite bizarre and we completely disagree with it,” said Wojciech Dabrowski, chief executive officer of PGE SA, the state-controlled utility that owns the Turow mine and the power plant the mine supplies. “It doesn’t mean that we are sticking to coal at every cost.”

(By Stephanie Bodoni and Maciej Onoszko, with assistance from Maciej Martewicz and Piotr Skolimowski)

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