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Coal company LEAG avoids landmark ruling by European Court of Justice

Polluter LEAG finally pays for sulphate contamination in Frankfurt's drinking water

220404_rutschung_schlichow_0292_400x267-equal-2.jpgCottbus, 28.02.2023. The environmental network GRÜNE LIGA regrets that there will be no landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice on the Cottbus opencast lake for the time to come. LEAG and water supplier FWA have apparently agreed on a payment in millions, thus ending their legal dispute. Other proceedings concerning the Cottbus-Nord opencast mine, however, remain pending before the courts. The flooding of the lake continues to be interrupted repeatedly due to a lack of water.


"It was high time that the coal company, as the polluter of the sulphate pollution, at least pays for part of the consequential costs. Unfortunately, this avoids a fundamental clarification by the European Court of Justice as to what value drinking water extraction has over mining interests. In view of the foreseeable further consequential damage from its opencast mines, LEAG obviously wanted to avoid a court clarification." René Schuster of the GRÜNE LIGA comments on the reached agreement.

Due to the mining-related sulphate contamination of the Spree water, the Frankfurt water supplier FWA was forced to upgrade the Müllrose waterworks at its own expense and to increase water prices in return. The company then challenged in court the planning approval for the so-called "Cottbus Baltic", the remaining hole of the LEAG open-cast mine Cottbus-Nord. The Cottbus Administrative Court had referred the case to the European Court of Justice because of its fundamental importance for the interpretation of the Water Framework Directive.


Even with today's agreement, continuous flooding of Cottbus North will not take place because there is not enough floodwater available in the Spree throughout and flooding apparently also has to be interrupted for the rehabilitation of slipped bank areas.

Whether the Cottbus-Nord open-cast mine and its follow-up lake were implemented legally continues to be the subject of legal disputes despite today's announced agreement. For example, the judicial review of a land expropriation ("assignment of land under mining law") for the opencast mine from 2012 has not yet been concluded. Only through this could the opencast mine reach its final dimensions.

Continuing stability problems during flooding (in German)

(Photo: Cottbus Baltic, ideengruen, Markus Pichlmaier)

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