Miners end coal shipment blockage after 48 hours

Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

Hundreds of workers from the Polish Mining Group (PGG), Europe's biggest hard coal producer, who blocked coal transports to power plants for 48 hours, finished their protest on Thursday morning despite a fiasco of talks with PGG's management.

Bogusław Hutek, head of the miners' Solidarity union has confirmed the end of the protest in a conversation with PAP.

"At about 7 am, our colleagues left the train tracks after one more night spent there," Hutek said. "There are no problems with the shipment of coal in any of the mines."

The miners demand higher wages and better compensation for working weekends.

Another round of talks is planned for January 10, in the presence of a mediator.

PGG spokesperson Tomasz Głogowski said that "the protest has no impact on coal extraction as it has been going on in accordance with the plan."

According to Hutek, the blockade had no impact on the sale of coal to individual customers. The protesters had also released a train loaded with coal for a sodium plant in Inowroclaw, northern Poland, "because this is not a power plant, and the lack of coal could halt its production."

They also let go two other coal transports, one to a sugar plant and one to a power and heat plant.

According to unofficial estimates, the workers' demands could cost the company about PLN 130-140 million (EUR 28.4-30.6 million) in total.

In a show of solidarity, farmers from the Agrounia organisation brought food to the striking miners.

About 35-40 trains carrying coal leave PGG mines every day. The unions had already blocked rail transports of PGG coal between Dec 21 and 23, for one day in each of the PGG mines.

Commenting on the blockade on Tuesday, Piotr Pyzik, a deputy state assets minister responsible for the mining sector, said it constitutes a threat to Poland's energy security.