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Poland PM defiant after EU imposes large fine over coal mine

The EU's Court of Justice has ordered Poland to pay a daily fine of €500,000 for keeping the Turow coal mine open. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has refused to comply with the order.

The open-cast lignite mine in Turow

Poland now faces a half-a-million-euro fine for every day the disputed coal mine remains open

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was defiant on Tuesday after a top EU court demanded his country shut down a mine near the Czech border.

"We are not going to turn off Turow, it would deprive millions of Polish families of electricity," Morawiecki said during a media briefing, according to the Polish Press Agency.    

The European Court of Justice slapped Poland with a €500,000 ($586,000) daily fine on Monday in response to the country's refusal to shut down the Turow open-cast lignite mine.   

The Czech Republic took the case to court over complaints that the mine is causing cross-border environmental hazards, especially as it concerns air and water quality.

Why did the court issue a daily fine?

In May, the EU's top court told Poland to shut down the mine, though Poland has refused to comply.  In June, Prague asked the EU's top court to fine Poland €5 million ($5.9 million) per day for failing to halt production at the mine.

Though the daily fine ordered by the court is considerably less, Prague still eyes the verdict as leverage in bilateral negotiations over the matter, which are ongoing.

Cooling towers from the coal-fired power station near the Turow open-pit lignite coal mine in Bogatynia, Poland

Cooling towers from the coal-fired power station near the Turow open-pit lignite coal mine in Bogatynia, Poland

The daily fine will continue to accrue until the mine is shut.

Despite the ruling, Poland said it stands by its decision to keep the mine open.

"Suspending work at the Turow mine would threaten the stability of the Polish power system," Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller said.

By contrast, Jakub Kulhanek, the Czech foreign minister, hailed the verdict, tweeting: "The main goal remains the same — access to drinking water on the Czech side must not be jeopardized." 

Poland will not close Turow, citing 'energy security'

Poland argues closing the Turow mine would endanger the country's energy security.

The mine, which has been operating since 1904, fuels a power station that provides around 7% of electricity. Turow also employs 4,000 people.

Watch video 02:45

Poland's insistence on coal hurts neighborly relations

Germany and the Czech Republic have both complained about an increase in noise and dust brought about by the plant's expansion, though Poland argues both countries have their own lignite mines near their borders with Poland.

Poland still relies on coal for 80% of its power needs and has vowed to shut its last mine by 2049, in line with EU targets.

"Poland did not leave its citizens without energy and did not close the mines overnight," Marcin Romanowski, Poland's deputy justice minister, wrote on Twitter.

"It is judicial robbery and theft in broad daylight. You won't get a cent," he added.

ar/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)