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Poland to suspend operations at 12 coal mines on COVID-19 outbreak

Highlights

Two JSW mines and 10 PGG mines affected

Closures expected to last three weeks

Warsaw — Poland will close 12 coal mines on June 9 for three weeks due to an outbreak of coronavirus infections at coking coal miner JSW's Zofiowka site over the weekend, state assets minister Jacek Sasin said June 8.

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Production stoppages will be imposed at two coking coal mines -- Pniowek and Zofiowka -- owned by JSW and 10 mines operated by Poland's largest thermal coal miner, PGG, Sasin said.

"There will be a temporary shutdown of production in all coal mines in which coronavirus is noted today and whose crews have not been fully tested for the presence of coronavirus. This means we will stop production from tomorrow in two JSW mines and in 10 PGG coal mines," Sasin told a news conference.

All miners would remain on full pay during the stoppage and deliveries to customers would not be threatened, Sasin said.

Stockpiles at both PGG and the country's state-controlled utilities are currently at a high level. Poland generates approximately 50% of its electricity from hard coal. Brown coal or lignite open-cast mining, which generates about 20% of Poland's power, has not been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Poland recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases in the EU over the weekend, thanks mainly to an outbreak at JSW's Zofiowka mine which produces about 8,000 mt/day of hard coking coal used in the production of blast furnace coke.

New cases in Zofiowka accounted for 60% of all infections recorded in Poland on Saturday and 38% on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases at the mine to 1,148.

However, the largest number of cases has been recorded at JSW's Pniowek mine, 1,587, which produces about 12,200 mt/day of hard coking coal.

The Zofiowka outbreak saw Poland record its highest daily increase in cases on Saturday, 576, since the pandemic began. On Sunday, there were new 575 cases as well.

As of Monday, 5,000 miners have been infected, with the most at JSW, 2,771, and 1,638 at PGG. Infections among coal miners make up about 50% of all cases in Upper Silesia, the region hardest hit by the virus.

The total number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Poland is much lower than in many western European countries, but cases have yet to peak.

Health minister Lukasz Szumowski told the news conference there was plenty of spare capacity in hospitals in Upper Silesia.

PGG employs approximately 40,000 people in its 14 mines and JSW 26,400 in its five collieries.