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    Debate on the Oder River catastrophe – blaming the mining industry is an abuse

    Even the cessation of output and the closure of mines do not imply the cessation of pumping groundwater; on the contrary, groundwater will need to be drained for a long time in similar amounts to avoid catastrophic consequences. Accusations directed at the mining industry in a media-political context concerning the Oder dispute demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the problem,” stated Tomasz Rogala, President of the Polish Mining Group (PGG S.A.), during the Oder River debate organized by the editorial team of “Dziennik Zachodni” on Monday, August 28th.

    Among those participating in the discussion on last year’s ecological disaster on the Oder were, Tomasz Rogala, the CEO of PGG S.A.; Tomasz Cudny, the CEO of JSW S.A.; and expert biologist Dr. Waldemar Szendera.

    When asked about the accusations made by environmental activists that mines “polluted” the Oder with brackish waters, the CEO of PGG S.A. emphasized that 87% of the discharged effluents consist of fresh and mildly brackish waters (meaning with a very low salt content). Water permits precisely define how much and what types of water mines are allowed to release into the Oder and Vistula river basins.

    “To protect the environment, we undertake a series of additional actions that go far beyond ordinary care and obligations imposed by the law. These include water retention, utilization of mining waters (PGG S.A. uses over 30% of groundwater for its own needs, from drinking water production to technological processes and installations), as well as water quality research, demonstrating the full transparency of the company and the mining industry, additional monitoring, communication channels, and reporting,” enumerated Tomasz Rogala. He added that it’s not the mines that are the main suppliers of water to the Oder’s users (PGG S.A.’s water accounts for only 1.5-3% of flowing waters at discharge points).

    “Attacks on the mining industry have the positive effect of maintaining some of the highest standards in utilizing the Oder River and the environment. One could wish that such standards were upheld throughout the industry and among entities and residents discharging waters from various processes, from domestic to industrial,” said the CEO of PGG S.A. He added that critics’ attention is focused on the mining industry in political-media disputes because traditional blame-shifting onto the industry is the easiest route, while in disputes based on merit, accusers cannot prove that mines are the cause of specific natural outcomes.

    “Neither the coal phase-out plan nor the drastic reduction in mining from 200 million tons decades ago to over 40 million tons today have eliminated the necessity of dewatering mining and post-mining areas. Therefore, the entire dispute is utterly senseless, and it cannot be resolved by closing facilities and discontinuing water pumping. We should capture and purify groundwater to the highest possible extent, utilize it, and manage the remaining waters in a controlled manner by redirecting them to river basins,” Tomasz Rogala explained.

    Tomasz Cudny, CEO of JSW S.A., also pointed out the superficiality of accusations against mines, presenting the company’s pro-environmental actions in water management (such as the Olza collector, Dębieńsko Desalination Plant, and detailed water quality monitoring).

    Dr. Waldemar Szendera emphasized that the cause of the Oder catastrophe still cannot be determined. He reminded that the phenomenon of fish kills has always occurred in nature and is most often due to insufficient oxygen caused by unfavorable atmospheric conditions and low water levels.

    Underground water discharged into the Klodnica River from the Halemba mine (pictured) does not resemble toxic sewage. It does not pose a threat, which was echoed by Greenpeace activists blocking the collector in chemical protection suits and gas masks. Credits: Bożena Sieja/PGG S.A.

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