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Coal mining limits could be broken

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The Industry and Trade Ministry is planning essential changes in the energy sector. A new national energy scheme breaks the two biggest taboos – ecological limits on brown coal mining and cutting down on uranium mining.

Details of the new energy scheme with the outlook till 2050 should be published by the ministry today. According to information available to the daily E15, its targets are not much different from the conclusions made by an independent committee led by Václav Pačes. The committee suggested to the government last year to quickly prepare the completion of the construction of two more nuclear blocs in Temelín power plant and to initiate a discussion on the withdrawal of brown coal mining limits and resumption of uranium mining. It also called on the former cabinet to increase support of ecological sources of energy.

“The report itself mentioned the breaking of current coal mining limits only marginally, more as a topic to think about in the future. The limits were discussed more in an opposing report made for the [then] Prime Minister Topolánek,” said a former member of the so-called Pačes committee, Edvard Sequens.

It is not yet certain that the cabinet will adopt the energy scheme in this form. Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on his introduction to the position that such serious decisions, such as the breaking of coal limits, are not to be made by his cabinet. Nevertheless, according to E15 there already is a document at Strakova akademie (the seat of the cabinet), which says the cabinet is to decide on coal mining limits no later than within six months after the national energy scheme is finally adopted.

Breaking the current coal mining limits is advantageous especially for companies like Czech Coal, the owner of Mostecká uhelná společnost. The biggest deposits of coal exceeding the limits in the Czech Republic are in the ČSA mine.

There are about 750 million tonnes of coal in areas where no mining is allowed. Now the mine has 40 million tonnes at its disposal and in case the limits are not broken mining would end in 2020. If the limits are cancelled, extraction could continue until 2065.

Czech Coal’s spokeswoman Liběna Novotná did not want to comment on the information on possible cancellation of limits. “We will wait for the official information from the ministry,” she said. However, the company had said earlier that it has CZK 22 billion available for the extension of the mine. Coal from the ČSA mine is especially important for local heating plants and cogeneration plants that could become its biggest customers in the future. They have been warning against growing influence of coal mining companies in Most, who have been pushing to increase prices in the past two years. “According to valid laws, coal is in the ownership of the state,” said Martin Maňák from J&T company. In his opinion, the state should consider regulating the prices of coal that would be extracted behind the limits. “With regard to the results of the Pačes’s committee there is a possibility to make it a law that this coal is preferentially supplied to heating plants and cogeneration plants that provide public service,” he said.

Mining beyond the ecological limits, approved already in 1991 by Petr Pithart’s cabinet, is opposed by two municipalities – Horní Jiřetín and Černice. Their inhabitants voted against further mining in a referendum four years ago. Coal miners are trying to persuade them and they have suggested several places where a new Horní Jiřetín could be build. These places are between Litvínov and Lom, in the vicinity of Most and at Vysoká Pec close to Jirkov. They are willing to start building collectively or to leave everything up to individual families after they are compensated. They offer up to three times the estimated value of their properties.

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