Poland's climate ministry said it allowed state-run power group PGE to extend operations at its open-pit lignite coal mine in Turow to secure power capacity at a local plant, which is "indispensable" for the country's energy transformation.
Poland generates most of its electricity from coal and lignite, or brown coal, and is the only EU member not to have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, arguing it needs more time to replace its coal-fuelled plants with cleaner ones.
The ministry extended PGE's mining concession in Turow, southwest Poland, by six years this month, dismaying environmental campaigners. PGE's plans to extend the production in Turow had also raised objections in the neighbouring Czech Republic.
"This scandalous decision literally goes beyond borders: regarding its impacts as well as a scale on which the EU law is violated," said Petra Urbanova, a lawyer from public interest law firm Frank Bold.
"This six-year permission was issued based on the environmental assessment process (EIA) covering 24 years and therefore this is yet another violation of EU law as it left out the public from participating."
Asked why the ministry decided to prolong the concession, considering EU's call to phase out coal and opposition by environmentalists and local communities, the climate ministry said that its decision "is currently aimed mainly at securing production capacity in the Turow power plant, which is indispensable for a gradual launch of ambitious transformation goals".