Selecting locations for lignite mining and power generation complexes has been the subject of intense controversy. As a result, there have been many conflicts in society due to environmental and economic concerns. This paper poses the question of how lignite surface mining affects local communities. These effects may be both negative and positive and some of them are intangible. It is very difficult to balance the pros and cons objectively as it depends on the assumed objectives and criteria of the analysis. Different social and economic structures in different communities, and various additional factors, are just some of the reasons why this balance may significantly differ around a country. The authors hold opposing views on the role of lignite in the energy mix and the balance of negative and positive effects that surface mining exerts on local communities. They agree, however, that the most important elements of the societal debate on lignite mining have not yet been adequately studied or presented in public discourse. The authors propose to introduce the procedure of Social Impact Assessment to the Polish legal system. This could be effective as a means to prevent many conflicts in the energy sector and be the best way to reach a compromise.