Czech industry minister seeks shift in coal mining debate

Czech industry minister seeks to shift coal mining debate to better use of permitted reserves rather than breaching current mining limits

Companies|Energy & Green Biz
Chris Johnstone | 05.04.2012
Brown coal mining in northerrn Bohemia

The Czech Minister of Industry and Trade has sought to defuse a debate over whether or not current geographical limits on coal mining should be abandoned by calling for more efficient use of the reserves within already agreed mining limits.

Minister of Industry and Trade Martin Kuba (Civic Democrat, ODS) said in an interview with business daily HospodárskéNoviny published on Thursday that he wanted to discourage the burning of coal in power plants with low efficiency of around 20 percent and shift coal-fired power generation to plants with efficiency around 40 percent. In that way annual coal consumption could be cut to around 25 million tonnes a year from around 40 million with reserves stretched out a lot longer.

With coal accounting for more than half of the country’s electricity production and coal-fired power plants running at near capacity due to the low cost of carbon emissions certificates, which penalize their use, reserves are currently running down fast.

‘Today, no one should expect to hear from the industry ministry that the [mining] limits should be broken.’

The issue of whether to give clearance for coal companies to get access to the forbidden reserves has been highly emotive. Coal companies, the biggest being SČD owned by state-controlled electricity producer ČEZ, and privately-owned Czech Coal, have been pushing for an end to the coal limits saying this will provide a domestic energy security and guarantee mining for decades to come. Environmentalists, who point to the heavy scars from mining in the north of the country, are fiercely opposed.

Kuba said in the interview that he wanted to shift the debate. “Today, no one should expect to hear from the industry ministry that the [mining] limits should be broken. That is the situation. In the north of Bohemia there should be a wholly new debate which should not take the form of “Here is two million crowns for your house and that’s it. If that debate is to take place at all, it should take into account the impact on the people and that region,” Kuba said.

Kuba’s latest comments appear a long way from his demands at the end of February for expropriation to be retained to clear the way for new mining. His predecessor, Martin Kocourek (ODS), also sought to end the current mining limits although the current coalition center-right government agreed to keep the limits, imposed at the start of the 1990s, in place.  

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