It has been a decade since the founding of Coalition „Development Yes – Open Pit Mines No!” and is still operating, uniting NGOs, scientists, experts, local governments, activists and ordinary citizens for a cause. There is no new open-cast lignite mine since its founding. This is the biggest of the many successes of the grassroots movement.
On the 9th of May 2011 in Lubin (Lower Silesia, Poland), the founding meeting of the National Coalition to Stop Plans for New Lignite Mine Construction at the initiative of Social Committee “STOP ODKRYWCE” (stop open-cast mining) and Ecological Association “EKO UNIA” (Eco-Union), was held.
Two years before, 27th of September 2009, the largest legal referendum, in the history of free Poland, took place in six communes of the Legnica district. Over 90 percent voters in every commune spoke out against the construction of an open pit mine near Legnica. The Social Committee STOP Excavation was formed, chaired by the late Irena Rogowska, commune head of the Lubin Commune.
Setting up a Coalition was a consequence of failure to obey valid election result in the municipalities of the Legnica region and Lubuskie by authorities at that time. Lack of dialogue with the social side, the growing threat of expansion of new open pits in the country, the risk of social and environmental disaster, raised awareness among people (from those communes) that they had to unite actions to confront that powerful lobby.
“The decision of setting up a Coalition in 2011 was bold and innovative,” says Tomasz Waśniewski who is initiator and co-founder of Coalition and since 2015 he is a chairman of Foundation „Development Yes – Open Pit Mines No!”. “Coal was still on the pedestal at that time, and the position of the coal companies was much stronger than it is today. The topic of climate change, smog, and the need for an energy transition has rarely appeared in the public space. However, that didn't stop us from taking on the challenge. Today, as the knowledge of destructive impact of coal power on the climate and the environment has become widespread, we can see clearly that due to our imagination and determination we were ahead of our times,” he adds.
Defending local communities
The Coalition is an agreement of people to respect the principles of sustainable development, environmental protection and observance of fundamental civil rights. It’s primary objective was to protect residents from the construction of open-cast lignite mine. This innovative formula brings together various entities and voices focused on one goal and continues to work successfully to this day.
“National Coalition was and still is unique due to the good cooperation of environmental organizations, local government officials and scientists. And because of the effects of our actions,” says Radosław Gawlik, co-founder of the Coalition and chairman of Ecological Association “EKO UNIA” “Probably only the opposition “Wolność i Pokój” (Freedom and Peace) Movement could boast of similarly spectacular actions and successes. During 10 Years of the Coalition’s activity no new open-cast lignite mine have been developed and the fate of the existing coal basins in Konin, Bełchatów and Turów is already sealed. We had a hand in convincing the majority of the Polish people that humans urgently need to withdraw from fossil fuels and restore the Earth's biodiversity in order to live safely.”
Coalition after 10 Years
Coalition „Development Yes – Open Pit Mines No!” is first of all people who commits and believes in the sense of their actions. The main reasons behind the success of this unique agreement, are people’s courage, hard work and dedication to the cause. Among those who have had a significant impact on the establishment and development of the Coalition are: the late Irena Rogowska (the first Chair of the Coalition), Tomasz Waśniewski, Radosław Gawlik, Zbigniew Barski, Zbigniew Tynenski, Ryszard Kowalczuk, Iwa Łoś, the late Andrzej Holdenmajer, Janusz Łucki and Waldemar Kwaśny.
However, it is impossible to mention all the people who have contributed to the establishment and achievements of the Coalition. They are local activists, such as Anna Dziadek, Józef Drzazgowski, Wanda Radowska. Sylwia Maćkowiak, local government officials, as well as employees of the affiliated organizations: Foundation „Development Yes – Open Pit Mines No!”, Association “EKO-UNIA”, Association “Nie Kopalni Odkrywkowej” (No To Open-Pit Mining), Association Greeppeace Poland, Association Frank Bold, Centrum Zrównoważonego Rozwoju (Center for Sustainability), Association Ekologiczne Eko-Przyjezierze (Eco-Friendly Przyjezierze – Settlement in Poland), Association “Nie dla odkrywki Złoczew (No to open pit Złoczew – town in Poland), Association Akcja Konin ( Konin (Town in Poland) Action).
“Over the years the Coalition has brought together organizations and individuals who, alone, could not face that powerful coal lobby. Due to the fact that we have been uniting our efforts and speaking with a common voice for a decade our message is now clearly present in the public debate," comments Tomasz Waśniewski. “Successes, numerous concerted actions, awards from independent institutions, which the Coalition has achieved, does not mean that we will rest on our laurels. There is still much to be done. Not all threats have disappeared, not all wrongs have been righted. But we know that due to this inimitable community we can fight with great success for a clean and green future for us and our offspring.”
“We managed to not only save the homes and farms of thousands of people, but also to prevent the destruction of the environment," adds coalition member Anna Meres who is climate campaign coordinator at Greenpeace Poland. “The construction of just one mine, Gubin-Brody, would produce more carbon dioxide emissions in total than the entire Polish economy generates in a year! Climate change is already causing more frequent droughts, hurricane winds and flooding in Poland. That is why success of the Coalition cannot be overestimated.”