RESIDENTS’ TESTIMONIES

Józef Drzazgowski, EKO-PRZYJEZIERZE Association

I was born here, I grew up here and my life will probably end here. This is an exceptional place. A place where I learnt to live according to the seasons and to utilise the goods that our immediate surroundings offered. I always imagined that the beauty of nature and monuments of the region could be used responsibly, in a way that would allow people to make a living using what we have at hand, not causing damage to the environment. Reasonable investments could push this region forward, help it develop. My piece of the World is a World where people can avail the environment in a way that allows the future generations to say that whoever lived here before were people, not barbarians. I always say that our life on this Earth is just a brief moment but whatever lasting effect we leave, will testify to our value as people. Humans are intelligent creatures, we are supposed to be able to predict the effects of our actions. My dream is for my little Motherland to be able to uplift, to please the senses of whoever comes here after us. My little Motherland, where I have spent my whole life, has always been this beautiful region on the borderland of Kuyavia and Greater Poland. It was here that my grandfather was both a fisherman and an Insurgent, my father - a hard worker and cursed soldier. Here I’ve been taught to respect other people and nature. As a young man I tied myself to this landscape by investing in the tourism industry. I had many plans for its development, but what can I say… the open-pit mine’s influence on the environment has stalled my plans to the minimum necessary for survival. Claiming that the mine brought development to the region is a giant fraud and a lie. The mine is pure evil and we’re all going to pay for it. With our health, our nature and the development of our region.

Having an open-pit mine in the area (about 15 km away from my home and workplace) is a curse to the environment and the people who work, live or come to the Lakeland for rest and leisure. The operation of the Konin Lignine Mine has lead to a decline in local farming and tourism industry, which could have been developed and brought profit to the region.

The current state of stagnation has lasted for many years, stalling growth and bringing bankruptcy of many local businesses. A question worth asking is: who in their right mind would invest in tourism if the environment is constantly being destroyed? For me personally - it brought loss in income, loss in the value of my properties, loss of perspectives for development. To sum up - mines bring unimaginable harm to thousands of people who could for generations sustain themselves through and cultivate our common asset - nature. Investment in coal means a few years of successful mining, but what will be left after that? Sustainable farming and tourism would create jobs for hundreds of years with no destruction of the environment.

I see no upsides to living in the open pit mine impact zone. My personal experience has left me with no will to develop and no faith in justice. The profits that the mining industry boasts of are profits made at the expense of other industries, at the expense of local businesses collapsing. The only upside to my 12-year long fight with the mining giant is the fact that through my work, thousands of people have learnt of the true face of the coal mining industry. Having an open-pit mine as your neighbour is a curse than brings nothing but ruin.

I want to invite everyone who is not indifferent to the future of the region, of Poland, of the whole world. Come and you’ll see a wonderful region, it’s historical, cultural, natural heritage. A region that has for years on end fought with human imprudence, exploiting its wealth with reckless abandon and leading to extinction of the invaluable local ecosystems. See, how the shortsighted, thoughtless, predatory actions of people focused only on personal monetary gain can destroy nature. We must all firmly object the destruction of our planet. We must scream at the top of our lungs that destruction of nature will bring the destruction of our civilisation. We must show the people responsible for the future of our planet that now is the time for reflection and change. We have only one Earth and it is in our hands to ensure its survival. If we remain idle, what will become of our children, grandchildren, the future generations? The fate of the Earth depends on our actions.

Renata Walczak, a local of Babiak, threatened by the establishment of the Dęby Szlacheckie open-pit mine

Babiak is a place for those who don’t fancy a big-city lifestyle, those who long for nature and a friendly neighbourhood in their daily lives. To most of us, Babiak means family and friends. For many years I have lead a simple life, focused on family, work. Bad things happened somewhere far away. It felt like Babiak was sheltered from the hostile world. We obviously had our own problems, but somehow we could always fix them ourselves. The threat brought on by the lignine open-pit mine construction plans turned my life upside down. As I kept hearing mixed opinions on the issue, I decided to see with my own eyes what an open-pit mine was and what it entailed. I simply took a tour of open-pit mines. Tomisławice, Drzewce, Kleczew, Koźmin and also the recultivated former open-pit mine of Lubstów horrified me. Talking to the people who have been affected by the ruthlessness of the mining industry made me panic.

There are cases where evicted tenants spend years in court trying to reclaim their assets, it is extremely difficult to get compensation for the damages caused by the mining, and even if the fight is successful, the compensation is often inadequate. There are cases, where people are forced to pay property taxes for land that is actively used by the mine. This is becomes even more shocking if we take into account that local farmers pay the cost of an activity that brings no profit. What is more, the profit decreases, since the depression funnel - a direct result of mining - also makes the soil dry up.

The farmers who cultivate land on filled-in open pit mines claim that the soil is exceptionally difficult, as it loses water and hardens up quickly or turns into quagmire during rainfall. Add to that the lagoon lakes which are in fact only there to accumulate ashes - the byproducts of the power plant, and former mining pits filled up with trash and the apocalyptic quality to that landscape becomes more vivid. No governmental institution has complete supervision over this. That’s what I realized when I found out that next to one of those trash-filled holes is a water extraction and bottling station. The initial shock was only replaced by relief when I recalled that I never drank that brand of water...

My worst experience was my visit to the Drzewce open-pit mine. I saw a huge pile of uncovered soil, a tiny village sitting at its base, separated from a peatbog only by a road. As a result of dessication, the peat would self-combust. Clouds of smoke and dust brought over from the mine made me think that that was what hell must look like. And amongst all that - ordinary, unlucky people who did no harm. Their only fault was that they got in the way to a private investor’s profit, who - for the benefit of their shareholders - paid next to nothing when buying off their property. It was especially shocking to me that this was what our - Babiak’s residents’ fate could look like as well. We would be doomed to a pitiful existence at the edge of and open-pit mine.

It was exceptional - to finally realize my own blindness, to see how many atrocious things happened so close to me, without me even noticing. I looked, but I saw nothing. To realize that I might be a witness to the largest environmental catastrophe took my breath away. An almost 30 km long fragment of the river Noteć disappeared, lakes disappear in front of our eyes, farmers have smaller and smaller yields each passing year, trees die, everyone talks of desertification of Greater Poland, but no one seems to notice the common factor causing all this havoc.

„Open-pit blindness” is common amongst authorities on every possible level. The local authorities only notice the profits to their budget, the district authorities prioritize the interests of Konin and Turek, because that is where their electorate resides, and the state has no will to transform our energy systems, only looking to not rile up the miners. We - the open-pit mine opposers - are perceived as „eco-lunatics”, progress-reactionists, but in reality it is only us who have the courage to say that open-pit mines do more harm than good, that the true costs of operation are put on ordinary people, who have no other choice but to live on the mine’s edge. But the world is changing on front of our eyes, new technologies spring up, and it is high time that we start producing the energy we need without the unnecessary extraction of resources that should be kept underground.

Andrzej Dąbek, Ślesin Community Council

The difficulty of my situation comes from the danger of living in a very close proximity to an open-pit mine, which causes countless, immense problems: increase in noise levels, increase in air pollution, increase in the presence of large industrial vehicles, soil dehydration and a drastic change in landscape. My house is located on land that has belonged to my family for generations (we certainly were there long before the mine). We would not like to relocate. We chose to live in this area for its rural, unindustrialized, peaceful qualities. Before the mine, our village was developing dynamically - we saw a rise in inhabitants, the farms were growing, the local authorities invested in the infrastructure. Currently I feel a sense of doom hanging over my head, as is the common sentiment among the local people, all caused by the mine. It causes most to lose their sense of stability, disinterest in private and public investment and constant worry about the future.

The worst is the uncertainty of my living conditions: will I lose my home, will I be forced to move and look for employment elsewhere, look for new friends… It is not only farmers that could lose their jobs, but also private businesses - in the case of relocation, their owners lose all the recognition and clientele achieved through years of hard work. Additionally, we can already see unrest and division among the local inhabitants, even within their own families. A school that has existed for a hundred years has already started to lose students, which puts it at risk of closing - now, even though it survived the II World War and years of scarcity. The school is an irreplaceable local social hub and gives employment to many people.

The real plans for the future are not that different from what they have always been. Let me mention that we recently discovered 5000-year old megalithic tombs of people who settled in our village because of its fertile soil and close proximity to bodies of water. We also long to build our homes here, produce organic food, have our own small service points. We would love to introduce tourism, promote healthy lifestyles, with respect to what nature has to offer locally. When we talk about nature’s offerings we mean fertile soil, forests, the neighbouring clean postglacial lakes - an unprecedented tourist attraction. These two branches to our development - farming and tourism - are threatened the most by the planned open-pit mine, which destroys the earth beyond repair and causes the water to retract 85 meters deep underground! If the mine is established, it would cause prosperity in the region to end abruptly, after thousands of years, turning the local landscape from paradise into ruin.