Greenpeace Activists Occupy Excavator At Bilina Coal Mine

The mine has started operating again, and only the excavator remains out of work. Photo credit: Greenpeace Česká republika, via Facebook.

Bilina, North Bohemia, June 22 (CTK) – Seven activists from the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany occupied an excavator in the Bilina coal mine in the early hours of this morning, and the operation of the mine was stopped for safety reasons, Severoceske doly mining company spokesman Lukas Kopecky told CTK.

Kopecky said the company called the police and contacted the mining office. He said the unauthorised occupation of the excavator will cause a financial loss to the company.

He said before noon that the mine had started operating again, and only the excavator remained out of work.

The police are at the scene and have called on the activists to leave the excavator, said police spokeswoman Ilona Gazdosova, adding that the mining office will deal with the offence after the activists are identified.

Two women and five men started occupying the excavator after 3am, in protest at the decision to extend mining at the site until 2035. Severoceske doly, which owns the Bilina mine and is part of the state-controlled CEZ energy group, received the mining extension permission from the District Mining Office in March.

Greenpeace spokesman Lukas Hrabek told CTK that the activists want to stay on the excavator at least 24 hours. “But strong wind and big storms are to come. In such a case, they will immediately climb down,” he said. Meteorologists are warning that heavy storms may come, mostly in the evening and at night.

Jaroslav Bican, from Greenpeace, said Severoceske doly applied for unlimited extension of the mining, which means that the mining might continue even in the 2040s. Nobody has been dealing with the environmental impact, he said.

“Before the CEZ general meeting, we want to point to the climate crime that is going to be committed in the Bilina lignite mine,” Bican said.

“We therefore call on CEZ to withdraw from its intention to extend mining in Bilina,” he added.

Greenpeace also challenged the supportive stance of the Czech Environment Ministry towards the mining extension, which was issued within an environmental impact assessment under minister Richard Brabec (ANO). The plan is to mine nearly 50 million tons of coal. According to the ministry, the mining should produce 11.5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year on average.

Greenpeace is calling on Environment Minister Petr Hladik (KDU-CSL) to change the positive stance towards further mining and reject the mining extension.

“The Czech government supports the coal phase-out by 2033 in its policy statement. The Environment Ministry has been doing its utmost for the Czech Republic to speed up first of all the development of renewable energy sources,” the ministry’s spokeswoman Lucie Jesatkova said in reaction to the environmentalists’ demands.

“The permission for the Bilina mine until 2035 does not anticipate how the possibly mined coal will be used and whether it would be used in sources of electricity or heat in Czech territory,” she said.

Greenpeace also criticised the fact that there is no deadline set for the mining permit in Bilina. If the mining slows down, it may thus last longer than until 2035, the environmentalists say.

Environmental activists have previously staged several similar protests. In June 2021, they occupied one excavator in the Bilina mine and one in Tusimice mine, both in the Usti region, for one day.

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