Bucharest court blocks extension of Romania’s largest coal mine

A court in Bucharest has blocked the expansion of the Roșia coal mine in Gorj, the largest in Romania.

In 2016, Complexul Energetic Oltenia, the largest energy company in Romania, sought to expand the existing 1,457-hectare lignite coal mine at Roșia by a further 280 hectares, 235 out of which is covered by forests that would have to be destroyed.

During a two-year legal battle, Bankwatch Romania, an NGO which is part of a group of grassroots environmental groups in Central and Eastern Europe, argued that the expansion had initially been granted without properly consulting locals and that the environmental impact had not been assessed.

It also added that the mine would pollute the surrounding area, including underground water, and that endangered species would be negatively impacted.

“It’s high time for Romania to develop a realistic strategy to ensure that polluting and expensive sources of energy, such as coal, are replaced with sustainable ones while at the same time making sure that employment is safeguarded in mining areas,” said Alexandru Mustață, a Bankwatch campaigner in Romania, welcoming the court’s decision.

“Romania is one of only seven EU countries which have not yet set a coal phaseout date, but it won’t be able to postpone this decision for much longer. In this context, giving the green light to new coal mines only means deceiving locals and miners. Bankwatch has been for years advocating that central and local governments start planning for the future beyond coal of Romania’s main mining areas, Hunedoara and Gorj. Jobs and opportunities need to be created as the energy transition is implemented,” added Mustață.

According to the Romanian Ministry of Energy, coal accounted for 24 per cent of the country’s power output in 2018.