WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will close two coal mines owned by state-run JSW and ten mines of PGG group on Tuesday for three weeks to stop the spread of the new coronavirus among miners, Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said.
Poland, which generates most of its electricity from coal, says miners account for almost 20% of all coronavirus cases in the country, with the southern coal producing region recording the highest number of those.
“Such action is needed to eventually quell these epidemic outbreaks,” Sasin told a news conference on Monday.
He added that the miners would receive full pay for the three weeks and that there was no threat to coal deliveries.
The pandemic has exacerbated financial problems facing the Polish coal industry, which is bracing for a government restructuring plan expected to be announced in coming weeks.
The state assets ministry said JSW’s Knurow-Szczyglowice and Budryk mines, which produce mostly thermal coal, would close on Tuesday.
Shares in the company, the European Union’s biggest coking coal producer, initially slumped by 10% with investors believing that the Zofiowka and Pniowek mines, which suffered the highest number of cases and dig mostly higher-value coking coal, would be the ones to close.
The PGG mines closing also do not include those with the highest numbers of infections. The Wujek coal mine, which sources said earlier this month will likely be permanently closed as part of the government’s restructuring plan, will however be amongst the closures.
“This is a surprise to me that these are the mines to be closed. This may indicate that the government aims to reduce the output of thermal coal,” said mBank analyst Jakub Szkopek.
Sasin said workers in the mines to be closed had yet to be fully tested.
Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Jan Harvey, Hugh Lawson, Kirsten Donovan
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