Land rehabilitation and biodiversity

PGE restores the usefulness and natural character of post-mining areas in order to recreate their previous environmental features or shape new ones. To this end, types and methods of land rehabilitation are defined and visions of landscape after completed rehabilitation activities are presented.

The types (forest, water, agricultural, municipal, industrial) and methods of rehabilitation must be in line with the local land development plan. Another important element is properly selected technical solutions and the quality of work to be performed. The deadline for completing rehabilitation works is also significant.

The rehabilitation of post-mining areas in lignite mines consists of a number of design, technical, organisational and executive measures.

Within this process, the following stages can be distinguished:

(Preparatory) – it consists in determining what factors condition the correct course of the rehabilitation process. At this stage, elevation surveying is performed, mining maps are drawn up, as well as cost and design documentation is prepared,

(Technical) – it consists in stripping and grading operations, including earthworks. Thanks to this, the waste rock dump is appropriately shaped into a system of slopes and shelves, water conditions are regulated by means of hydrotechnical facilities and equipment, and access roads are built or rebuilt,

(Biological) – it consists in improving the air and water properties of the soil, eliminating excessive acidification, supplementing missing nutrients, introducing green and tree vegetation to recreate the biological conditions of the area and protect it against surface erosion,

They comprise the cultivation and maintenance of vegetation, i.e. work performed on already afforested areas. If there occur any losses in the forest stand due to the influence of any external factors (drying, destruction by animals, etc.), particular locations have to be afforested again. Such locations are identified during periodic inspections.

Poland's unique land rehabilitation process

The post-mining areas of the Bełchatów Lignite Mine are being rehabilitated primarily as forest land. It can be provisionally estimated that about 5,500 ha (including protective strips of land around water reservoirs) will be eventually made available for afforestation purposes. So far, the Bełchatów Lignite Mine has handed over more than 1,500 hectares of rehabilitated and afforested land to the State Forests.

The rehabilitation of post-mining areas in the Bełchatów Lignite Mine is carried out on the basis of a technological project for the Bełchatów Field and the Szczerców Field, as well as on the basis of annual detailed technical projects for individual areas.

The total area of 2,296 ha was rehabilitated from the beginning of the project until the end of 2020. All rehabilitation works were completed at the external waste rock dump of the Bełchatów Field, i.e. Mount Kamieńsk. At present, the external waste rock dump of the Szczerców Field and the internal dump of the Bełchatów Field are being rehabilitated.

Mount Kamieńsk is a flagship example of comprehensive land rehabilitation activities conducted by PGE Górnictwo i Energetyka Konwencjonalna. At 395 m above sea level, it is the highest hill in central Poland. It was formed from 1,354 billion m3 of overburden taken off in the process of stripping successive layers of lignite. At present, it is one of the main tourist attractions in central Poland. A ski lift, hiking and cycling routes and a 620-metre long sledge run make Mount Kamieńsk an important point on the map of summer and winter sports enthusiasts.

The company also completed the formation of a second dump, this time at the Szczerców Field. This process took 17 years and resulted in the creation of a “twin” Mount Kamieńsk. The dump was formed from almost 1 billion m3 of overburden covering lignite deposits. Currently, the mountain has a surface area of 1114 ha and a relative height of approximately 170 m. By the end of 2020, more than 4 million trees had been planted on the mountain as part of the rehabilitation process, thus ensuring the area’s biodiversity. The surface of the mountain is also covered with a lot of grassy plants, and among animal species living there, it is possible to distinguish the roe deer, wild boar, hare and fox. Among birds, open field and meadow bird species predominate. The mountain is a habitat for the lark, field and wood pipit, partridge, pheasant and many other species. Two pairs of the rare common ringed plover have inhabited the unformed parts of the mountain for many years. This area is also patrolled by ravens, buzzards and kestrels. Cranes can also be found on the slopes of the mountain.

The rehabilitation of the dump aims at its afforestation, taking into account the recreational function based on forests, cycle paths, a golf course, autodrome, hippodrome and a ski slope. A photovoltaic farm will also be built at the top of the mountain.

In the area of the Bełchatów Field, works are underway on corrections and additions to afforestation from the rehabilitation carried out in the previous years. The objectives of the rehabilitation process include the following:

  • afforestation of the internal dump of the Bełchatów Field (the area on the western side of the dump, adjacent to a planned water reservoir),
  • afforestation as well as recreational, agricultural (cultivation of energy crops) and commercial (construction of a wind farm) activities on the external waster rock dump of the Szczerców Field,
  • creation of water reservoirs in the mining pits of the Bełchatow and Szczerców Fields,
  • recreational and sports facilities as well as afforestation in the shore areas.

In the short term, the main task of the Bełchatów Lignite Mine in this area will be the rehabilitation of both final pits and the building of a large leisure and recreation complex based on water reservoirs. The scale of difficulty of this project has no equivalent in Poland.

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Rehabilitation plans for the Bełchatów Lignite Mine Research

Design and execution works in this area are being carried out well in advance of the date for the termination of mining operations. In the first place, rehabilitation will comprise the post-mining pit of the Bełchatów Field. However, water-oriented rehabilitation will be possible for both final pits simultaneously.

The water surface of the two reservoirs may have a combined surface area of more than 4,000 hectares. The most impressive is their maximum depth of approximately 170 metres. This means that the Bełchatów lakes will be deeper than Hańcza, the deepest lake in Poland. The reservoirs will be filled with water after 2050, when all mining works aimed at preparing the post-mining pits in the Szczerców Field for flooding will have been completed. The water level in both reservoirs will be rising gradually, which will take approximately 20 years. The surface area of the final pits in both fields will be about 4300 ha (2100 ha in the Bełchatów Field and about 2190 ha in the Szczerców Field). The remaining areas will be partly sold and partly rehabilitated by afforestation or for other special purposes. A special type of land rehabilitation – apart from typical afforestation around the future reservoir, a different tree stand was taken into consideration. It was planned to base the afforestation process on tree species typical of parks rather than forests in order to make the shoreline more attractive.

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Lungs of Bogatynia

In the case of the Turów Lignite Mine, the rehabilitation of the external waste rock dump, which has been carried out since the 1960s, is aimed at the afforestation of the area. It is conducted on an ongoing basis in locations where mining operations were permanently terminated. As a result of the works carried out, the slopes and shelves of the dump are finally shaped, the slopes are stabilised by controlled rainwater drainage, the top layer of the soil is strengthened and the whole area is protected against erosion, the volume of rainwater runoff is reduced by increasing soil retention, the quality of water flowing from the dump is improved and fugitive emissions are reduced.

The rehabilitated external dump of the Turów Lignite Mine Branch is a forest complex with the surface area of over 21 km2 , which, apart from possessing attractive landscape features, constitutes an invaluable oxygen generating area of the Bogatynia commune. It is also a diverse natural environment where habitats and ecological corridors are created.

The result of the rehabilitation works carried out since the 1960s is dynamically growing multi-species tree stands forming components of the forest environment, including the soil and its specific microflora as well as the local microclimate. The rehabilitated soil is characterised by relatively rich biological life. In 2020, the rehabilitation works on the post-mining areas of the internal dump were being continued. The biological rehabilitation aimed at afforestation covered the area of 12 ha. A wildlife inspection was carried out on 47 ha of the forefield in order to establish the principles of continuing lignite extraction operations in compliance with the principles of species protection.

The effects of the performed rehabilitation works contribute first of all to the improvement of the quality of basic environmental components, i.e. air, water and soil. Fugitive emissions of dust from the waste rock dump decrease in parallel to the growth of the afforested areas. The anthropogenic forest complex formed on the external dump contributes significantly to the increase of the afforestation rate of the industrialised region. Although the age structure of afforestation is characteristic of young forests, it is already an important landscape and climatic factor for the Bogatynia commune.

This is what the reclamation of post-mining regions in #Belchatow and #Turow looks like

Land rehabilitation in other production companies of the PGE Group

Land rehabilitation activities are also carried out by the company PGE Energia Ciepła. After the termination of operations at a given landfill, the landfill is formally closed and subsequently undergoes the process of green rehabilitation. Vegetation is introduced, grass covers are made and trees are planted. Where possible, measures are planned to restore the economic functions of particular areas. Stripping and grading operations are performed in order to adapt an area to various economic functions of an industrial, service or municipal character.

In the case of PGE Energia Odnawialna, the technological processes, operation of equipment and current investment projects do not cause interference with the biodiversity of protected areas. The green areas in the possession of the company are maintained by dedicated maintenance teams. There are also Special Areas of Conservation Nature 2000 in the vicinity of the company’s facilities. PGE Energia Odnawialna participates in the costs of restocking rivers and lakes with fish in accordance with the provisions of water permits, and constructed fish ladders enable unimpeded fish migration.

In 2020, PGE Energia Odnawialna continued to monitor wildlife birds and bats at its Resko II, Kisielice II, Karwice, Lotnisko and Wojciechowo wind farms.

Conducted wildlife research projects provide data on the factual impact of the company’s activities on species richness. Observations made during nature monitoring showed positive effects of the activities carried out so far. The inspections of the functioning wind farms did not indicate any need to take any special measures to protect biodiversity. Should such need arise, preventive measures will be taken. Biological research will be continued in the following years.

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Bird protection

PGE is committed to bird protection. To this end, it takes specific measures to increase their safety as well as to enhance the possibility of maintaining and reintroducing various bird species.

Restoration of the peregrine falcon population

The peregrine falcon is one of the rarest bird species, which became practically extinct in Poland twenty years ago. Currently, there are 50 pairs of falcons in Poland and they are under strict species protection. The PGE Group has been actively working for the restoration of the peregrine falcon population in Poland for 18 years.

Over the years, falcons have taken a liking to PGE chimneys. For the first time ornithologists spotted a pair of falcons on the premises of the Dolna Odra Power Plant Complex in 2003 and then the first nestlings were ringed. In the following years, the birds settled down in specially prepared habitats located on the chimneys of the cogeneration plants in Gdynia, Gdańsk, Toruń, Lublin, as well as on the chimneys of the power plant in Bełchatów, and the Dolna Odra Power Plant Complex. In 2020, a total of 18 chicks hatched and were ringed in six nests located on the premises of PGE branches. Since 2003, 83 young falcons have fledged from nests located on PGE Group installations, which accounts for 17.3 per cent of all peregrine falcons born in Poland since 2000 (479 nestlings in total).

As part of activities related to the restoration of the peregrine falcon species, PGE cooperates with the “Falcon” Wild Animals Association. Within the scope of this cooperation, cameras were placed on the falcon nesting boxes located on the premises of the cogeneration plants in Gdynia, Toruń and Lublin. Thanks to this, birds and their activities can be watched online at

This possibility to observe the family life of the peregrine falcon aims to spread the knowledge of actions taken to restore the species. It also allows an indirect contact with nature, especially its unreachable parts, as in the case of the peregrine falcon, which usually has its nest at an altitude of one hundred metres. Observing the life of peregrine falcons is an extremely popular pastime. Statistics show that the highest number of nest viewing visits occurs in May. In this month alone, more than 400,000 views of the aforementioned website showing nests located on PGE chimneys can be recorded. The Group organises regular contests for names for young falcons. Each time as many as 3,000 people submit their naming proposals. Posts and videos promoting PGE’s activities in the field of peregrine falcon protection are published on PGE’s YouTube channel and social media.

PGE also supports the “Falcon” Association in information and education activities, encouraging local communities to take an interest in the life of wild birds. At the Gdynia Combined Heat and Power Plant, it is a tradition to invite pupils from the nearby primary school to a „live” nature lesson during which they have the opportunity to see the process of ringing young birds.

Besides falcons, the premises of the Dolna Odra Power Plant Complex are also inhabited by bank swallows, which nest in the disused section 4 of furnace waste dump, as well as kestrels, whose nests are located on the power plant chimney. As their habitat, swallows have adapted the slopes created as a result of ash-slag removal. Their protection consists mainly in protecting young birds, which often fall out of their nests during the first flights.

Safety of storks

PGE is also involved in the protection of storks which, due to the location of their nests on electric poles, are particularly exposed to the risk of being electrocuted. For years, metal platforms have been erected for storks on poles above power lines and their nests have been moved to these platforms. This prevents direct contact between storks and power lines, which significantly reduces the risk of electrocution, especially for young birds. Currently, there are more than 26,500 such platforms in the company’s areas of operation, with more than 1,000 installed in 2020 alone. A half of them are located in the territory of the Białystok branch of PGE Dystrybucja where, due to exceptionally favourable living conditions, the occurrence of storks is the highest in Poland. In order to protect birds, the power infrastructure of PGE Dystrybucja is additionally equipped with special protection devices such as platforms, deterrents and coloured balls suspended on power lines.

The company also cooperates with associations and foundations whose aims include bird protection. These organisations include the following:

  • the Białystok branch of the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds,
  • the EcoLogical Group from Siedlce,
  • the “Give the Stork a Chance” Association from Kozubszczyzna, and
  • the Lublin Ornithological Society.

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