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REFILE-EU's top court orders Poland to halt lignite mining at Turow

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BRUSSELS, May 21 (Reuters) - Poland must immediately stop mining lignite coal at the Turow mine operated by PGE, the European Union’s top court said on Friday, handing a win to the Czech government which had sought an order to stop the mining activities.

The Court of Justice of the European Union said it had not yet made a final decision on the case, but ordered Poland to immediately cease lignite mining at the mine, until the final judgement is delivered.

“It appears sufficiently likely that the continuation of lignite mining activities at the Turow mine before the final judgment is delivered is likely to have negative effects on the level of groundwater in Czech territory,” the court said in a statement.

Shares in PGE dropped 4% immediately after the court confirmed its decision.

The Polish government last month extended a concession to allow mining at Turow to continue until 2044 - angering climate campaigners and prompting the European Commission to say the region will not receive money from the EU’s flagship green transition fund.

The Czech Republic had already filed a lawsuit in February calling for a halt to activities at the mine, located near the Czech and German borders, saying Warsaw had violated the bloc’s law with an earlier extension of mining at Turow until 2026.

“This activity not only has a negative effect on the rights of the citizens at the Czech-Polish border to water as mining affects the groundwater level, but also on the quality of the environment and property of the citizens,” Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec said on Friday.

PGE and Poland’s climate and state asset ministries were not immediately available to comment.

PGE has said previously that a sudden closure of Turow, which together with the nearby power plant it supplies is a major employer, could lead to economic collapse in the province and shake “the stability of Poland’s power system”.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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