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    Oder Revitalization Act to Help Reduce Mine Water Salinity

    In mid-July, the Polish Sejm, Lower House of the Parliament, passed the Oder River Revitalization Act, and on Thursday (August 18), it rejected the Senate’s veto, putting the project one step closer to receiving the President’s signature. The new law places an obligation on mines to invest in initiatives that limit the discharge of saline mine waters.

    Jacek Madeja writes about the details of the law in the ‘Mining Tribune’ portal nettg.pl, where he also delves into the current state of water and sewage management within the largest mining corporations.

    Investments in revitalization, including water retention, flood prevention, and drought mitigation, will receive approximately PLN 1.114 billion in financial support. Administrative procedures will also be streamlined, facilitating the implementation of these projects. Additional assistance is earmarked for water and sewage management projects within the Oder River basin, which includes prioritization in obtaining funds for the construction and modernization of 123 sewage treatment plants and 259 sewage systems, as well as shortened administrative timelines in investment processes (such as simplifying the acquisition of building permits).

    The law establishes a new entity – the Water Inspectorate. Inspectors will be authorized to seal off unauthorized water outlets, conduct inspections, and suspend the application of water permits. Stricter penalties will also be imposed on entities that violate regulations. Currently, fines for water-related offences amount to PLN 500, but this is set to increase to PLN 1,000 to 7,500. Additionally, the law introduces administrative fines for neglect related to water management that poses a threat to human life, health, and environmental safety. These fines will range from PLN 5,000 to as much as PLN 1 million.

    For coal companies and mines, the most significant provision is the requirement for industrial facilities to undertake necessary investments in order to limit the discharge of saline water.

    Representatives from Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa and PGG S.A. Polska Grupa Górnicza (Polish Mining Group – ed.) believe that the requirements of the new law align with strategies that are already being implemented. Mine waters are directed to settling tanks and are increasingly being utilized for technological purposes. Prior to being discharged into the Oder River, the mine waters of both companies mostly pass through the retention and dosing system called ‘Olza.’ Its protective function involves holding back discharges during low river flows; mine water discharge only occurs after rainfall, when the Oder water level is sufficiently high.

    Within PGG S.A., (80% of the load of mineral salts (chlorides and sulfates) falls under the protective action of systems in the Vistula and Oder River basins. The mining operations of the ROW (Rybnik Mining Area – ed.) mine in Rybnik (Jankowice, Chwałowice) and Marcel mine in Radlin are connected to the ‘Olza’ collector. In other mining facilities within the Oder drainage area, PGG S.A. is expanding systems that allow for full retention during ecological alerts, such as at the Sośnica mine (for 22 days), Rydułtowy (3 days), Bielszowice at Ruda mine (5-10 days), and Staszic-Wujek (3-5 days). With further investments in mind, PGG S.A. has commissioned the Central Mining Institute (GIG) in Katowice to develop an optimal direction for managing mine waters in order to reduce the anthropogenic pressure on the environment for each mining facility within the company’s structure.”

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