THE GOVERNMENT passed an amendment prohibiting the mining of radioactive substances in Slovakia in its May 21 session. Mining will be allowed only in cases when inhabitants of the affected municipality approve it in a local referendum. The Environment Ministry, which authored the bill, is proposing to pass it in fast-tracked proceeding.

The company Ludovika Energy, responsible for geological surveys in the Jahodná resort near Košice, considers the initiative a populist measure. People currently have the possibility to veto mining. The only ones who see problems are politicians, said Boris Bartalský, manager of Ludovika Energy, as reported by the SITA newswire.

The amendment should give more powers to people when deciding over a new mining operation. Under the new rules, mining companies will have to, after they complete the geological survey, ask the affected municipalities to announce local referendum. If people approve the mining, the companies will be able to seek permission from the mining authority, SITA wrote.

“We have clearly said several times, and I as a minister have also announced, that I am against uranium mining,” Environment Minister Peter Žiga said, as quoted by SITA, when presenting the amendment on May 16. He added that despite these statements the possibility of starting uranium mining in Slovakia has been a traumatic issue for Slovak society for several months.

If passed in a fast-tracked proceeding, the law may come into force on June 15.

Talks over the mining of radioactive minerals are currently underway in Košice. Ludovika Energy, a subsidiary of Canadian firm European Uranium Resources, was conducting a geological survey in nearby Jahodná, which has been purported to have big uranium deposits, since 2005. In April, the company sold the project to Australian firm Forte Energy. The permission for surveying is valid until April 2015.

Residents of Košice and nearby municipalities, as well as environmentalists and civic associations have criticised the project and protested against possible mining, SITA wrote.

In addition to the ministry proposal, Ivan Štefanec and Viliam Novotný from the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) have also proposed a ban on uranium mining in Slovakia.

According to them, there are several reasons for the ban, including harming the health of those living in the area where mining takes place and a higher occurrence of cancer, higher rates of sterility among women and birth defects. They also pointed to environmental devastation , as reported by SITA.