The Polish government has ordered the closure of 12 coal mines for three weeks following new cases of COVID-19 that have affected hundreds of workers in the country’s southern Silesian coal region.
Two coal mines owned by state-run producer, JSW Mining Group, and 10 out of 14 mines from POLSKA GRUPA GÓRNICZA (PGG group) are required to close on Tuesday to stop the spread of the virus between miners, which account for about 20pc of recorded cases in the country.
JSW is the largest producer of coking coal used in steel production within the EU. Most of its reported COVID-19 cases are located at its Pniowek and Zofiowka mines. JSW cut coal production at Pniowek on May10, while PGG, also considered a large EU producer, had to temporarily pause a few mines last month due to the infection rate at that time.
Polish trade unions have argued against the decisions to shut the mines, fearing it could lead to permanent closures because the government is presently trying to reform the industry, according to media reports.
The pandemic has intensified the economic plight of Polish coal mines, which were already besieged by decreasing consumer demand, falling prices, and mounting stockpiles of material before the virus struck. PGG had a stockpile of 2.8mn mt of coal in February 2020, compared to having none at the same time in 2019. At that time, PGG also predicted that its coal output could drop by 2-4mn mt this year, according to reports.
The government will announce a restructuring plan for the industry in the upcoming weeks. The closures aren’t anticipated to affect coal deliveries because Poland has sufficient domestic and imported coal inventories. Miners will also continue receiving full pay during the stoppages.
JSW produced 10.3mn mt of coking coal in 2018, and PGG produced around 30mn mt of total coal last year.