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Polish Miners Block Railway Hub To Protest Import Of Russian Coal

Polish miners protesting the import of foreign coal on January 31
Polish miners protesting the import of foreign coal on January 31

Miners in Poland launched a blockade of a railway terminal in the country's main coal mining region on February 18 to protest an increase in Russian coal imports.

The labor action involving several hundred miners at the Slawkow terminal in Silesia follows an increase in imports of Russian coal to Poland in recent years while stockpiles of more expensive coal from Polish mines have been growing.

Boguslaw Zietek, head of Poland’s Sierpien 80 trade union, said the Slawkow terminal in Silesia is where Russian coal arrives by train and “takes away our jobs and our right to pay hikes.”

The terminal in Silesia is linked to Poland's eastern neighbors with a broad-gauge railway that facilitates trade.

Analysts point out that Polish coal mines suffer from high extraction costs because of higher wages for Polish miners, higher electricity prices, and low-lying coal deposits.

Poland’s Treasury Ministry says that out of 16.7 million tons of coal imported to Poland in 2019, 10.8 million tons came from Russia.

Coal inventories at Polish mines more than doubled in 2019 to 5.2 million tons by the end of December.

Poland relies on coal and lignite to produce about 80 percent of its electricity.

Polish coal miners are planning a protest in Warsaw later this month to demand pay hikes.

Based on reporting by dpa and Bloomberg