The Czech government is considering plans to re-open a uranium mine near Jihlava after deposits at the country’s sole currently operating Rožná mine are exhausted. During his visit to the site on Monday, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the government was ready to support future uranium mining which would create hundreds of jobs in the region.
State-owned mining firm Diamo would like to continue extracting uranium even after economical reserves at the Rožná mine, some 50 km northwest of Brno, are depleted. Roźná is the only operational uranium mine in central Europe but its remaining deposits of around 500 tonnes will be exhausted in several years’ time.
When that happens, Diamo would like to continue mining at Brzkov, a site near Jihlava with an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of uranium ore. The firm says it would take some six or seven years before the launch of operations there; mining would go on for about 16 years, providing “hundreds of jobs”, the company said.
The Brzkov deposit, located some 300 metres beneath the surface, was prospected in the late 1980s when over 60 tonnes of uranium ore was extracted.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who visited the Rožná mine on Monday, said if no major objections to the plan were raised, the government should support the idea to maintain employment levels in the region. Mr Sobotka also suggested that technologies guaranteeing the least possible environmental impact from mining would have to be used.
However, plans to mine for uranium at Brzkov have met with opposition from environmentalists and local communities. Evard Sequens of the NGO Calla questioned the effectiveness of the plan. The government would have to invest billions to reopen the mine and to extend the capacity of existing processing facilities.
Another 30 billion crowns will be needed to remove the damage caused by mining at Rožná. But if mining resumes at Brzkov, the deposit would only provide fuel for Czech nuclear power plants for about five years, according to Mr Sequens.
Local communities that would be affected by the mining also object to the idea. Five years ago, they rejected plans by the Australian firm Uran Limited which was eying the local deposits. On Monday, several mayors as well as regional officials declined comment, Czech TV reported, arguing they had no knowledge of Diamo’s latest plan.
Environmentalists also point out that uranium mining in the Czech Republic should be phased out under the existing long term energy policy framework dated from 2004. Prime Minister Sobotka said his government would discuss the plans in several months’ time. The government is also in the process of updating the energy policy guidelines and is likely to reverse that stance on uranium mining.