Polish miners block trains with cheap Russian coal

Be?chatow coal mine. Poland, 2013. [ Kamil Porembi?ski/Flickr]

More than 200 Polish miners blocked trains carrying Russian coal at a border passage in northern Poland, to protest against the cheaper Russian coal being brought in at a time when local mines are struggling, mining union leaders said yesterday (23 September).

Poland, which uses coal to generate about 90% of its electricity, produced 76.5 million tonnes in 2013. It exported 10.6 million tonnes but at the same time imported 10.8 million, mainly from Russia and the Czech Republic.

Imported coal proves cheaper than that from Poland’s largest miners such as Kompania W?glowa or JSW. Faced with high production and labour costs, as well as falling prices and demand, Polish mines are suffering losses.

“Right now around 80% of tenders for coal supplies to units run from the state budget are won by suppliers of imported coal, because they offer dumping prices,” Jaros?aw  Grzesik, leader of the mining Solidarity union, said.

Dominik Kolorz, who heads the Solidarity union in the coal-rich Slasko-Dabrowskie region, told Reuters the miners may block the Braniewo-Mamonowo passage until a government representative is sent to listen to their demands.

Earlier this year, Poland said it was considering sanctions on the import of Russian coal. Poland is among the more vocal supporters in the European Union of tougher sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine. 

The EU has a legally-binding goal for 2020 of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by the same amount, both measured against 1990 levels. A voluntary target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency is also in place.

Poland, which derives some 90% of its electricity from coal, has dragged its feet on these targets and fervently opposed any expansion of the EU’s climate ambition.

Officially Poland says it is in favour of climate policy, provided it is followed by others big players worldwide and it leads to the expected results. Polish support to the mainstream EU climate policies is conditional to global commitments, and that climate ambitions should not be at the expense of growth and jobs, meaning that energy in the EU should be cheaper.


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