Coalier Than Thou

Closing time: Polish coal

It powers the country’s economy and generates more than four-fifths of its electricity. But a healthy industry it is not, as today’s results from JSW, one of Poland’s three state-controlled miners, show. Since 2006 exports have halved and production costs have soared: miners must dig ever deeper to reach seams in pits that date back as far as the 18th century. Low prices and a history of hefty bonuses for miners have brought state firms to the brink of bankruptcy, generating a net loss of 1.9 billion zloty ($500m) two years running; today JSW reported a first-half loss of 149m zloty. But Poland’s nationalist-leaning Law and Justice (PiS) government says the country’s vast reserves provide vital energy security, and refuses to close the collieries, which still employ nearly 90,000 people. Instead it has convinced state-controlled, coal-burning utilities to bail them out, which may infringe EU state-aid rules. The industry’s future looks murky.


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