Dodgy deal: Złoczew lignite open-pit mine

 Source: BankTrack

The planned Zloczew lignite coal mine would prolong the lifespan of the Belchatow power plant, the largest emitter of CO2 in Europe, and would be responsible for the displacement of over 3,000 people and the destruction of 33 villages.

About Złoczew lignite open-pit mine

The Złoczew lignite open-pit mine, if built, will be the deepest lignite mine in Europe. The reason for the mine's construction is to prolong past 2030 the operation of the Bełchatów coal power plant, the biggest lignite plant in Europe and EU's biggest CO2 source. The mine is estimated to cost between PLN 10 and 15 billion (EUR 2.3 - 3.5 billion) and would need between six to eight years of preparations just to remove the overburden, blow up the rocks above and pump out water. It will produce 18 million tonnes of lignite a year, leading to the emission of an estimated 25.74 million tonnes of CO2, five tonnes of mercury, 26 tonnes of cadmium and 169 tonnes of lead a year. Methane leakage from the mine would be equivalent to 0.4 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Brief history

The exploration works on the Złoczew mine started in June 2010. In 2011 Poland's largest energy company PGE started planning for the mine, based on assumptions that the current two pits feeding the Bełchatów coal power plant will be depleted between 2030 and 2035. The Złoczew lignite mine is located 50 km west of the Bełchatów coal power plant and is expected to supply this plant in order to prolong its operation. PGE estimated at that time that 430 million tonnes of lignite could be extracted from the mine over its full lifespan.

At first, construction of a new coal power plant next to Złoczew mine was considered but these plans have been dropped and now Złoczew is considered only as a source of lignite for the Bełchatów plant.

In 2011 PGE's plans indicated the company expected to secure the mining concession in 2014, but as of March 2019 this concession is still at least months from being granted.

What must happen

PGE needs to divest from coal, but the company has still not ruled out construction of new coal power plants. It is even in talks with ENERGA and ENEA about becoming an investor in Ostrołęka coal power plant and is planning the Złoczew open-pit mine. It also does not have a coal phase out policy or any Paris compliant decarbonistion goals.

The two Polish banks that have not yet ruled out project financing to new coal mines,  Powszechna Kasa Oszczędności Bank Polski and Bank Polska Kasa Opieki, need to make a public statement that they won't finance the Złoczew mine. Banks in general should not provide corporate financing or any other form of support or financial service to PGE, at least as long as it is pursuing the Złoczew mine project or planning other new coal mines, plants or other infrastructure.

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