PF 2016 (or what Year 2015 has brought us?)
The beginning of the new year 2016 is a good opportunity to look back at the events of the previous year also with regards to our mutual efforts to prevent uranium mining at Jahodná. Here are some of the important moments of 2015:
JANUARY: Ludovika Energy submitted to the Ministry of Environment an application for their licence for the Čermeľ-Jahodná uranium exploration area to be extended until 2025. In order to justify their self-proclaimed “right” for extension of uranium exploration at Jahodná they wrote in their extension application also the following statement: “...extension of the exploration licence for the area is for the purpose of chapter 1 of the Protocol no. 1 to the Convention on Human Rights connected with the property rights through which Ludovika Energy Ltd. will reimburse their expenses after gaining the preferential right for establishing a mining area.”
FEBRUARY: All the 6 affected municipal communities (i.e. Košice-Sever, Košice-Myslava, Baška, Nižný Klátov, Vyšný Klátov, Košická Belá) as well as Košice Region sent to the ministry of environment their negative opinions on extension of the Čermeľ-Jahodná uranium exploration area. At the same time, they also applied to be recognized as affected parties in the proceedings. Our organization ZO SZOPK Košice 2013 as well as about two dozens of citizens of Košická Belá have also applied to be recognized as affected parties. The ministry of environment has excluded all these subjects from the proceedings (thus the only subject left in the proceedings was Ludovika Energy), however, afterwards it issued a resolution by which it denied extension of the uranium exploration area for Ludovika Energy. All the affected parties have appealed against the corresponding ministry decision (municipal communities and citizens against their exclusion from the proceedings, Ludovika against the denial of the exploration extension). At the end of the month, the municipality of the city of Košice also applied to be recognized as an affected party in the proceedings, even though the representatives of the city had originally refused our earlier appeal asking them to do so – they changed their minds only after the ministry in the first stage denied the uranium area extension for Ludovika.
MARCH: Ludovika Energy sent to the ministry of environment their appeal against the uranium exploration extension denial. When doing so, they have once again come with their old trick, which they had already successfully employed in 2013 – blackmailing the state by asking for a compensation (the number they calculated this time was 22 million EUR). In the text of their appeal they have been once again trying to persuade the ministry that when the Geological Act says “...may be extended...”, it should actually mean “...must be extended...”.
APRIL: Minister of environment P. Žiga at a press conference on 16 April 2015 announced that he had refused the appeal of Ludovika against the decision denying the extension of their licence for uranium exploration in the Čermeľ-Jahodná area. However, in the very same moment when Žiga was saying to the journalists attending the conference sentences such as “Since Monday the uranium exploration area definitively ceases to exist.” or “This means the end of a 10-year period traumatizing the citizens in the region.”, the ministry of environment already got a new application from Ludovika asking for establishing a new exploration area in the same place (Ludovika had on purpose given the newly proposed exploration area a misleading name “Kamenné” and declared it as “exploration of rare earth elements”).
MAY: Both the municipal communities whose territories the newly proposed exploration area “Kamenné” should belong to, i.e. Košice-Sever and Košická Belá, sent to the ministry of environment their requests to be recognized as affected parties in the proceedings (our organization ZO SZOPK Košice 2013 had requested the same already at the end of April, immediately after we had learnt about the existence of Ludovika's new application for radioactive exploration). The ministry hadn't included the affected municipal communities in the proceedings automatically, even though in accordance with the geological act, they should have done so by default. The explanation that “no radioactive minerals are involved this time” was just a feeble excuse the ministry used in order to achieve that the affected municipalities wouldn't be able to have their say and prevent establishing of a new exploration area at Jahodná. Radioactivity of the minerals involved, which according to the geological act is a pre-condition for the municipalities to be recognized as affected parties, in case of rare earth elements was confirmed even by the president of the District mining bureau (who is otherwise a vehement supporter of the idea of uranium mining).
JUNE: The ministry has excluded both the affected municipalities as well as ZO SZOPK Košice 2013 from the proceedings about establishing a new exploration area at Jahodná – all the three parties have afterwards filed an appeal against their exclusion. Meanwhile, Ludovika Energy have filed a legal suit against the ministry of environment, in which they demand the resolution refusing extension of their old licence for uranium exploration area Čermeľ-Jahodná until 2025 to be cancelled. Between the lines they are once again threatening the state by asking for a ransom valued 22 million EUR. It is not without interest that the lawyer acting on behalf of Ludovika Energy is Branislav Fridrich – a former assistant of the Smer-SD-party MP Mojmír Mamojka.
JULY: Ministry of environment suspended the proceedings about the new exploration area Kamenné until 10 May 2016 – the declared reason for suspension was that Ludovika in their application hadn't met a precondition required by law to evaluate the results of the previous geological exploration done in the old Čermeľ-Jahodná exploration area. However, according to the geological act the consequence of failing to meet the precondition should have been a termination of the proceedings and a rejection of the application rather than just a suspension – here the ministry has once again demonstrated their inappropriate willingness to act in favour of the uranium company!
AUGUST: The public learnt that Ludovika Energy had a debt (and not for the first time) in the state Social Insurance Institution (the institution, to which all the companies registered in Slovakia are required to pay and contribute to their employees' future pension funds). In the same month, the www.ludovika-energy.sk website, which had for several consecutive years before spread demagogy about “harmlessness” of uranium mining at Jahodná, disappeared from the Internet.
SEPTEMBER: Minister of environment P. Žiga, based on a recommendation of a special appeal committee, cancelled the resolutions of his subordinates from the geology section of the ministry, which had excluded the affected municipalities (Košice-Sever, Košická Belá) as well as our organization ZO SZOPK Košice 2013 from the proceedings about the new exploration area “Kamenné”. However, he did not directly acknowledge their position as recognized affected parties in the proceedings either, he just “returned the matter to the ministry for a new evaluation and decision”.
OCTOBER: Forte Energy NL, the Australian company that in June 2014 had created a joint venture with Ludovika Energy's owner – the Canadian company European Uranium Resources (EUU) – aiming at development of Slovak uranium projects Jahodná-Kurišková and Novoveská Huta and that for over a year had been paying the majority of Ludovika's expenses, announced a pull-out from both of the projects and the end of their activities in Slovakia. By doing so, Forte freed the playground for the sake of two other parties interested in uranium mining in Košice.
NOVEMBER: From leaked information the public has learnt that a Czech company named Uranium Industry CZ is interested in uranium mining at Jahodná once the parliamentary elections are over. The CEO of the company at first said “We believe that realization of the project within a consortium of Czech and Slovak companies could be for Slovak politicians more acceptable than under a direction of a Canadian player and therefore we might be able to succeed in obtaining a mining licence. The project is fully complete, including plans for an underground factory, it is just obtaining of the mining licence from the Slovak environment ministry that is missing.” but later (after journalists started to become interested) he hastily denied such intention of his company. Shortly afterwards, Ludovika Energy's owner and acting body got changed – the Canadian company EUU was replaced by a Dr. Dušan Obernauer from Bratislava, who is the CEO of another mining company named GEO-TECHNIC-Consulting (GTC). The GTC company had served as Ludovika's subcontractor (and the actual executor of the uranium drilling at Jahodná) already since 2005, besides, it had also been involved in several other unwanted mining projects in Slovakia (Kremnica, Detva) and has connections to 12 other Canadian mining companies. We can therefore hardly hope that the new owner has bought Ludovika Energy just to settle their debts and to pull out from Jahodná.
DECEMBER: On Monday 14 December 2015, exactly 3 years elapsed since the uranium Memorandum of understanding between the Canadian EUU and the former economy minister Malatinský had been signed. Three Malatinský's successor-ministers (Pavlis, Kažimír and Hudák) had been asked afterwards to cancel the Memorandum by the Košice City Council, the Košice Region Council, the Community Council of the Košice-Sever District and (several times) also by our organization ZO SZOPK Košice 2013 – with no result.
Besides the above-mentioned events, we have noticed also others that took place in 2015, such as two large mining accidents (in the USA and in Brazil), which caused huge environmental damage and once again demonstrated how “safe” mining factories are. A new mining factory – magnesite mining – has been in complete silence launched also in Košice (in the Bankov area) and the public has practically no information about it (moreover, many doubts are raised based on the fact that the current owner of the Bankov magnesite mine had met in past with former uranium-Ludovika's director Bartalský). In 2015 it was also demonstrated how close the prime minister Fico and his Smer-SD party are to pro-mining lobbyists (the “aluminum foil” case, in which it was discovered by media that an important member of Smer-SD was most likely receiving cash payments declared as government donations to preserve employment in coal mines and he was storing them in an aluminum foil for the sake of fire protection). We should also mention several of our partial successes, such as incorporation of at least some anti-uranium goals into the Development Programme of the City of Košice 2015-2020 and the Economic and Social Development Programme of the Košice Region 2016-2022
In conclusion, let us wish ourselves lots of energy to fight the challenges that the new year 2016 is likely to bring us – there might be many: continuation of the (currently suspended) proceedings about the new radioactive exploration area Kamenné, the continuous attempts of Ludovika to revert the cancellation of their previous uranium exploration area and to get a ransom of 22 million EUR through a court complaint, possibly also an application for establishing of a uranium mining area at Jahodná, a potential arrival of the Czech Uranium Industry company or the neverending attempts to change laws (mainly geological, mining and build laws) so that they would made mining companies' lives easier and diminish the influence of the affected people. Of course, all of this will happen only after the parliamentary elections are over...