A group of about 2 000 Polish miners has traveled more than 800 km to Luxembourg to protest against the decision of the European Court of Justice to halt production at their lignite mine.
The Friday demonstration, heavily guarded by the Luxembourg and Belgian police, comes five months after the European Union’s top court ruled that Poland should stop extracting coal from the Turow mine because of the country’s unresolved dispute with the neighboring Czech Republic.
“We will not allow the European Union to close our mines just as it used to close our smelters and shipyards,” Piotr Duda, head of the country’s Solidarity union, told the crowd.
The miners started the protest in front of the court’s headquarters in Luxembourg, blowing trumpets and banging drums, and later plan to march toward the Czech embassy. The Czechs said the mine is draining water reserves from their border region.
Poland, which gets 70% of its electricity from coal, says the Turow facility accounts for as much as 7% of the country’s power supply and switching it off could lead to blackouts and cost the entire region many lost jobs. The mine belongs to the nation’s biggest utility PGE.
After Poland refused to close the facility, arguing such a move would threaten its energy security, the tribunal ordered the country to pay €500 000 for each day the mine remains operational. The government in Warsaw hasn’t yet paid the fine, hoping that it can reverse the surprise ruling and find compromise with the Czechs. The bill for the penalty has ballooned to about €16-million as of Friday, according to Bloomberg calculations.