FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German court will widen an investigation into whether to extend a salt-water disposal permit for potash and salt miner K+S, WirtschaftsWoche reported on Wednesday.
The reason for the extension is charges filed last month by prosecutors in the town of Meiningen, southeast of K+S’s headquarters in the city of Kassel, over suspected illegal waste disposal, the weekly said, citing a court document.
K+S declined to comment.
The administrative court in the Hessian city of Kassel, which will decide whether to extend the permit, was not immediately available for comment.
K+S has won provisional approval for the discharge of saline waste water in Hesse under strict limits. It said in December it expected to receive final approval for deep-well injection until 2021 by this summer.
K+S has for years fought complaints by environmental groups and some local municipalities about the discharge of salty waste water from processing potash ore into fertiliser products.
The company has previously said it had obtained approval from state mining authorities for waste water disposal and it was fully cooperating with the investigators.
But in the statement earlier this month, prosecutors argued those involved in the approval process, including three current and former mining authority employees, must have known that the expert opinion the clearance rested on was wrong about pollution levels.
There must have been “at least a tacit understanding that the approval was legally not justifiable”, the statement said, adding: “Approval by way of collusion” was as serious as not having approval in the first place.
Prosecutors also said they would seek to claw back any profits obtained from the alleged misconduct.
The charges are directed at 14 employees of K+S, including the former and current chief executive, as well as further executive board members, a number of K+S staff, and also two employees and one former employee of the state of Thuringia mining authority, the prosecutors’ office said.
Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Ludwig Burger, editing by David Evans