Prof. dr hab. Aleksander Lipiński Legal adviser, professor at the Jan Długosz University in Czestochowa (Faculty of Law and Economy). Author (co-author) of over 400 papers (comments, books etc.) referring to the legal problems of mining and environmental protection. Longtime associate of Ministry of Environment (Ministry of Climate and Environment) on the above mentioned issues.
According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the Minister of Climate and Environment is the competent authority to examine the application for approval of the geological operations plan for drillings to explore deep ground. This assessment is fully justified by provisions of Art. 161 sec. 3 point 9 of the Geological and Mining Law. The circumstances of the discussed case may, however, justify the assessment that the planned geological operations were aimed for using the Earth's heat or for identifying geological conditions for the construction of a heat pump. The estimated depth of the borhole was to be 100 m. If this was the case, the geological operations plan was only subject to notification to the starost and did not require approval by any administrative authority. The analysis of the requirements shaping the conditions for the performance of geological works leads to the conclusion that they do not comply with Directive 2011/92 /EU of 13.12.2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.
By the decision of 20 March 2020, the Minister of Climate and Environment of Poland extended, until 2026, the license granted in 1994 for lignite mining from the Turów deposit, located in the area adjacent to the Czech Republic. In the opinion of the claimant, the said decision was issued in breach of the requirements of European law regarding environmental impact assessments, and the extraction of the mineral from this deposit (that started over 100 years ago) will cause the lowering of water level on the adjacent Czech territory. By an order of 21 May 2021 the Vicepresident of the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered the Republic of Poland the immediate suspension of mining of lignite from the aforementioned deposit, until the judgment concluding the case will be announced. The legitimacy of this decision is questionable for many reasons. First, the mining of the aforementioned mineral is not carried out by the Republic of Poland, but by an entrepreneur, who is a commercial company. Secondly, the immediate suspension of the mining will not stop the drainage process (and thus damage or the threat of its occurrence) on the Czech territory. Thirdly, the order to cease mining may be complied only with the requirements of Polish law, which requires taking appropriate decisions, in particular regarding the approval of a change in the mining plant operation plan. However, there is no legal basis for the implementation of the order described above. The circumstances of the dispute also justify the assessment that, in fact, it is of civil-law nature and concerns the liability of a Polish entrepreneur for damage caused (or likely to arise) in the territory of an adjacent state.
Despite numerous amendments, geology and mining legislation does not meet the current needs. This assessment refers to almost all of the issues governed by the Geological and Mining Act of 2011, as well as some solutions outside of it. First of all, it regards the scope of this Act and the unreasonable rigors of many of its solutions, that cause its evasion as well as discourage from the investment in the discussed area. Polish system of environmental impact assessment of the projects in the field of geology and mining is more rigorous than the requirements set by the European Union, while on the other hand it does not meet all of its requirements. Five years ago a complaint was submitted to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal regarding the conformity of Art. 41 of GMA that defines the concept of a party in the concession proceedings with the Constitution. Also the requirements for the licensing of hydrocarbons are excessively complicated. These problems (and many others) are well known, both to those concerned by the provisions discussed above and to the public authorities responsible for their application. Still, there is no information about initiatives aimed for amending the law in this regard. The aim of the article is to signal the key shortcomings of the aforementioned legal problems and the urgent need for their radical change.
Prof. dr hab. Aleksander Lipiński
Legal adviser, professor at the Jan Długosz University in Czestochowa (Faculty of Law and Economy). Author (co-author) of over 400 papers (comments, books etc.) referring to the legal problems of mining and environmental protection. Longtime associate of Ministry of Environment (Ministry of Climate and Environment) on the above mentioned issues.