Lost Opportunity for a Just Transition: the Turów case. PART SIX: There Is No Plan

The Turów mine cannot operate indefinitely. Even if there were no economic factors nor green tendencies, the coal reserve there is finite and will be extinguished by 2044. What will happen to the town that grew up alongside the mine?

Read previous chapters of the story:

Plans for the further exploitation and subsequent development of the site give various end dates for the mine and electric plant’s operation. The already quoted Wladyslaw Rebandel in 1964 assumed that exploitation would not last beyond around 2010. On this point, we now know, he was wrong. However, he seems to have accurately described the landscape that will appear before the eyes of future generations.

It is anticipated that (…) some 3 billion m³ of overburden and 800 million m³ of lignite will be selected here. The result will be a huge excavation of 2,800 hectares with a depth of up to 300 m in the southern part in places. This pit will spread between the villages of: Turoszów, Sieniawka, Białopole, Opolno Zdr. and Bogatynia. The overburden of 1.8 billion m³ will be heaped on an external heap (…). In addition to the overburden, approximately 100 million m³ of power plant ash will be dumped on the heap. (…) In the final phase of operation, the heap will cover an area of approx. 1,600 ha and be approx. 100 m high. (…) The remainder of the overburden (…) will be heaped on an internal heap on the site of the previously selected coal (…). The open pit is expected to fill with water at the end of mining, creating a lake of approximately 20 ha, while the heap will form an artificial hill of massive proportions [1].

What will happen to the town that grew up next to the mine when the mine itself becomes a lake?

This question was not part of the analysis. Nor were it dealt with by experts from Poltegor in Wrocław when they estimated the costs of further coal mining in 1991, taking into account the requirements of nature conservation. They only corrected the date of the projected depletion of the deposits to 2035 and emphasised that the power plant would also cease operation at the same time [2]. Another study produced in the same year at Poltegor postpones the year of the end of exploitation by 10 more years, to 2045 [3]. This is almost the same horizon as that indicated by PGE today, after recent modernisations of the mine.

The population of Bogatynia without the mine and power plant did not exceed ten thousand people After the completion of the big construction project, in the era of the stable functioning of the industrial complex at the beginning of the 1980s, it was approaching 17,000. A long-term urban development plan for Bogatynia was drawn up in 1983-1985 by a team headed by architect Alicja Kuczyńska – taking into account that, of the town’s population, almost 14,000 were of working age and employed in the industry, and predicting that the industry would develop and provide another thousand jobs. The architects marked out isolating green belts between the mine and the city. At Opolowska and Białogórska Streets and in the Matejki II and III housing estates, they wanted to place high-intensity housing. They included the protection of historic wooden half-timbered houses in their plans. They also wanted Bogatynia to finally have a real urban centre: a complex of commercial, service, catering and cultural facilities in the area of the old railway and later bus station in Daszyński Street [4].

Here a real urban centre of Bogatynia was to appear. It is not needed any more, as the town has little development perspectives, most of the transport connections were liquidated.

Alicja Kuczyńska and her team had no reason to believe that even the PKS station indicated in the plan would cease to function within a generation. Today, private buses only reach Bogatynia, and when we plan our arrival, we cannot find the accurate timetable, the one we find online turns out to be outdated. Finding the right place of departure in Zgorzelec also proves to be a challenge. There are so few connections to the area that a simple bus stop is sufficient instead of a railway station.

The possibility that the large factories will cease to exist, nothing will replace them, and the continued existence of Bogatynia as a town of several thousand inhabitants will become strongly questionable, could not have come to the heads of the Socialist-era urban planners. When they were drawing up their plans, there was still another industry in Bogatynia and its surroundings. Bogatynia’s “Doltex” cotton industry was at one point the third largest producer of towels in Poland. A winery was in operation. No one drawing up plans for the future functioning of the town and the region in the 1960s or 1980s would have imagined that the entire local, not at all loss-making and not at all obsolete industry would first be privatised, then sold off (as in the case of “Doltex” – for nothing) and practically razed to the ground, with several thousand jobs disappearing irretrievably.

There is no long-term plan. So what if the mine nevertheless does not last until 2044, because coal mining will simply cease to be profitable?

And the water dispute with the Czech Republic? Could it have been foreseen and prevented?

(to be continued)

This report was developed with the support of Journalismfund.

Piotr Lewandowski, Iwona Lewandowska and Czesław Kulesza co-operated in the preparation of this report.

[1] Archiwum Państwowe we Wrocławiu, coll. no 332 (Prezydium Wojewódzkiej Rady Narodowej we Wrocławiu), no 36.1/131, p. 6-7.

[2] Archiwum Państwowe we Wrocławiu, coll. no 1997 (Centralny Ośrodek Badawczo-Projektowy Górnictwa Odkrywkowego Poltegor we Wrocławiu), no 1.1/74, p. 18 and 35.

[3] Archiwum Państwowe we Wrocławiu, coll. no 1997 (Centralny Ośrodek Badawczo-Projektowy Górnictwa Odkrywkowego Poltegor we Wrocławiu), no. 1.1/69, p. 14.

[4] Archiwum Państwowe we Wrocławiu, Oddział w Bolesławcu, coll. no 110 (Rada Narodowa Miasta i Gminy i Urząd Miasta i Gminy w Bogatyni), no 1/4, p. 5-6.

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