Natural Resources Self-Sufficiency – How to Balance Groundwater Protection and Mineral Resources Exploitation – Pleterje Case, Slovenia: Legal and Geological Aspects

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Senko Pličanič
Željko Pogačnik
Eva Koren
Goran Vižintin


The purpose of this article is to showcase opportunities for local communities to demonstrate self-sufficiency with respect to natural resources (gravel and sand) in the east of Slovenia. Limitations put in place for the exploitation of mineral resources by applicable regulations in the light of groundwater protection were analysed particularly in the context of mining undertaken in an area of shallow alluvium with a shallow groundwater table. It is essential that land disturbance (from mining activity) complies with the environmental limitations imposed by both EU and Slovenian law. The study highlights the factors directly indicating the inadequacy of the applicable regulations in Slovenia in relation to mining in areas of shallow groundwater; those limitations put in place the exploitation of mineral resources as unlawful works. This article outlines how such limitations negatively affect local communities’ self-sufficiency and the region with natural resources, specifically mineral resources. To this end, when selecting which alluvial plain to test, we focused on the area of the Drava and Ptuj Plain (Dravsko polje and Ptujsko polje) in Slovenia. The Drava River flows through the area in question across this alluvial plain. The artificially regulated power canal of the Zlatoličje hydroelectric power  plant runs parallel to the river. Pursuant to environmental regulations, mineral resources can be exploited in these areas only up to two metres above the highest groundwater level. This criterion makes it almost impossible to pursue the additional exploitation of mineral resources in this area, as well as similar areas in the catchment area of the Danube River in Slovenia. We believe that in terms of the shared use of physical space it is necessary to change this limitation and link it directly to the percentage of exploited physical space and the application of relevant extraction technologies, which do not pollute groundwater either directly or indirectly. We also believe that the criterion put in place does not withstand expert judgment as the requirement for excavation to cease up to two metres above the highest groundwater level was not defined by means of the scientific method. The article analyses inconsistencies and puts forward measures for the ongoing eco-friendly and economically sustainable exploitation of mineral resources. As an alternative, we thus suggest  implementing the EU Regulation via an act that would set out the necessary limitations, based on expert starting points arising from cartographic bases under consideration of the tetrahedral consensus-seeking methodology.


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