The flood plain habitat of the hermit beetle, which Arnika says is threatened by further mining
Environmentalists are pinning their hopes on a large, smelly beetle and some floodplain forests stopping plans to extract coal in the far east of the Czech Republic.
Czech environmental group Arnika say mining group OKD, part of stock-exchange quoted group New World Resources (NWR), is eying up mining hard coal on land near the town of Karviná where the hermit beetle — sometimes known as the Russian leather beetle because of its smell — happily lives at the moment inside hallow oak trees on the flood plain forest.
Arnika says the forest has general European protection under the Natura 2000 policy to safeguard rarer habitats, partly thanks to the beetle’s status as an endangered species, with part of the flooded area also recognized as a sanctuary for rare water birds.
“Given the importance of international undertakings and the significance of this site for local people, the responsible authorities should protect this area,” Arnika’s local representative Jan Nezhyba commented on its website.
Mining in the area, large parts which have already been devastated by the search for coal to feed local steel mills over the last two centuries, would disrupt the water table and spell the end of the rate floodplain forest, the environmental group says. Arnika says that it will propose that the area be declared a conservation zone within the next days.
Spokesman for the mining company Vladislav Sobol told the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes that it had mapped out the threatened species, including the beetle, and was making plans for them. Just what the plans amount to is not clear so far. Karviná town spokeswoman Šárka Swiderová told the paper that an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) had been called over the possible impact of permission for new mining.
The town says that the mining company employs around 3,500 people out of the 60,000 living there with no other major employer on the horizon. Mayor Tomáš Hanzel has stressed that no decision on further mining has been taken yet and a go-ahead would only be given if OKD met strict conditions, including the agreement from owners of some homes that would have to be demolished.
Environmentalists say that the hermit beetle only lives in old hollow oak trees and that any change to the local environment would mean the end of such trees and the beetle. They say they recently fended off attempts for a mass cutting of the old oaks, with the state forestry company forced to agree to only individual action against trees with environmental inspectors looking over their shoulders.