Mining to Poland
Update: Impact of COVID-19 on Polish mining operations
27 April 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak has had major impacts on Poland’s mining industry. Most mining companies have reduced production, switched from four shifts to three, and introduced a 1.5-hour break in between shifts, so that the miners finishing do not meet the group coming to work.
Almost 80% of Poland’s energy production comes from coal. The lower production output means coal mining companies are selling stockpiles from over the past 12 months.
Mines and coal companies are reducing investment outlays and extending payment deadlines for liabilities to suppliers of goods and services. This will have major flow-on effects on thousands of companies, institutions and people operating in the sector.
The prolonged suspension of mining operations could also increase security risks in mines. These hazards include rock bursts, water hazards, risk of fire and explosions due to a build-up of gas and methane, and rising temperatures that may damage machines and other equipment.
In response to all these factors, each mining company has nominated crisis operation teams. These crisis teams decide how operations will proceed within the company, introduce restrictions and changes in workflows, and ensure the right amount of personal protective equipment and disinfection is available for workers.
Trends and opportunities
Poland has a long mining tradition with the Karolina mine in the Silesian coal region opening as early as 1788. The country is the ninth largest coal producer in the world and is the largest in the European Union (EU).
The major commodities mined are hard coal, lignite, copper and sulphur. The mining sector is supported by a large mining equipment, technology and services (METS) industry and specialist education, research and development organisations. The nation’s recoverable hard coal and lignite reserves are estimated at 3.09 billion tonnes (Source: World Energy Council).
Large-scale coal reserves are considered strategically important from an energy security perspective. The government is supportive of the coal industry and envisages that it will remain a key energy source for the medium-term; however, it acknowledges that efficiency in the sector needs to be improved. The coal industry also remains an important employer with over 85,000 people working in the industry.
After a period of stagnation, the Polish mining industry has picked-up pace and is showing signs of improvement, following long awaited restructuring and mining industry reforms implemented by the Polish government that are taking effect. A noticeable rise in coal prices during 2016-2017, has also helped Polish mining companies regain strength and stabilize their financial standing and they are better prepared to plan and execute the much needed investments in new coal projects, equipment and technologies. Coal still accounts for nearly 80% of Poland's energy mix and as such the mining industry is a high priority for the Polish Government.
With the Polish government strongly supporting the development of new, “intelligent” coal mines, Polish miners are looking to incorporate advanced technologies, know-how and equipment to increase production, lower costs, reduce harmful emissions and improve safety. This provides opportunities for Australian METS suppliers in providing innovative solutions to Poland.
Polish mining companies are looking to Australia for a range of solutions, especially technologies that can assist to lower production costs, increase efficiency and improve mine safety. Specific topics on the table include: coal seam methane management, coal processing technologies, mining software (mine planning, management and fleet monitoring systems); mine safety solutions; material-handling systems; environmental solutions and strata control (roof bolting). Simultaneously Polish miners are also looking at possible joint research opportunities with Australian organisations and academic centres. There is also an increasing interest in Poland to consider coal gasification technologies.
Apart from coal, opportunities in Poland and the wider Central European region exist in mineral and metal mining and processing operations, including Copper, Zinc, Cobalt, Sulphur and Lithium.
The varied mineral deposits are concentrated mainly in the southern regions and adjacent areas. The most important mineral resource is hard coal, most of which is located in Upper Silesia and the Lublin coal basins. Poland also has significant deposits of lignite, located mainly in the basins surrounding the cities of Turoszów, Konin and Bełchatów.
Sulphur and copper are the most important of the country’s non-fuel mineral resources. Some of the world’s largest sulphur deposits are found near the city of Tarnobrzeg in the south-east and large reserves of copper are located in Lower Silesia. Important reserves of zinc and lead are in Upper Silesia. Other minerals of economic importance are rock salt, potash, iron ore and gypsum.
Commercially exploitable hard coal reserves are located in Upper Silesia and in the Lublin basin in the east of Poland, with the Upper Silesian coalfield accounting for 78.9 per cent of the total. The coal reserves in this region consist of 400 coal seams with thicknesses of 0.8 metres to three metres. About half of these seams are economically workable. Some 72 per cent of the reserves consist of steam coal, 27.0 per cent are coking coal (Source: ARP Polish Industrial Development Agency). All hard coal is deep mined at an average working depth of approximately 600 to 1200 metres. Mining in Poland is fully mechanised, with over 90 per cent of coal produced by longwall systems.
Location of major coal basins in Poland:
(Source: Polish Geological Institute, 2011)
In the past, only coking coal was cleaned to meet international quality standards. However, the expansion of existing coal preparation plants and the commissioning of new facilities in recent years, has led to an improvement in the quality of Polish steam coal.
In 2017 Poland’s hard coal production amounted close to 66 million tonnes (Source: ARP Polish Industry Development Agency) and coal exports from Poland totalled 5 million tonnes in 2017.
More than half of the shipments were transported overland to neighbouring countries, mainly Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria, while the remaining volumes were transhipped via the Baltic ports.
Coal imports/exports in 2017:
- Hard coal imports: 13.3 million tonnes
- Hard coal exports (I-IX 2017) : 5 million tonnes
Poland is the fourth largest producer of lignite worldwide and the second in the EU. Lignite is used predominantly by the power generation sector and is mined by open-cast methods. Two of these operations are located in central Poland and a third in the south-western region of the country. Lignite-fired power stations generate approximately 53 -55 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, being one third of the total gross power generated in Poland.
The Bełchatów basin, which incorporates two lignite fields, is situated in central Poland. The open-cast mine is expected to remain in operation until 2038 and supplies the 4400 megawatts Bełchatów power plant, which provides 20 per cent of Poland’s power requirements. The country’s lignite mining areas are expected to maintain annual production output at current levels of around 63-66 million tonnes (Source: Ignite mining and electricity generation in Poland: The current state and future prospects report) as lignite is expected to play an important role in Poland’s energy supply until at least 2030.
Government policy for the industry is based on the following specific objectives:
- ensuring energy security of the country by satisfying the domestic demand for hard coal, including utilisation of coal for production of liquid and gaseous fuels
- maintaining competitiveness of Polish hard coal in conditions of free market economy
- ensuring stable deliveries of hard coal of the required quality to domestic and foreign customers
- utilisation of modern technologies in the hard coal mining sector to improve price competitiveness, occupational safety, environmental protection and to create the basis for technological and scientific development in particular in the Silesia and Małopolska region.
Australian expertise is acknowledged and valued by the Polish industry and there are opportunities for Australian organisations to offer solutions to assist the Polish coal sector as it undertakes extensive transition and modernisation. Areas to consider include:
- improving operational efficiency
- mine planning, deposit assessment and geological survey solutions
- efficient coal-bed methane management
- Introduction of roof bolting (strata control) expertise, technologies and equipment
- equipment and services to support modernisation including automation, underground communication systems
- improved drilling technologies, especially directional drilling and navigation capabilities
- training including efficient, safe mining practices
- personnel management, including individual worker/staff tracking systems, work cycle management and payroll systems
- environmental remediation of closed mine sites.
Poland’s coal sector is facing significant challenges due to relatively high costs of production from its deep underground mines. Currently, the cost of production in many coal mines is in excess of global prices. This situation is particularly acute in the thermal coal sector and as a consequence, the sector is seeking to better align production costs to global prices.
The majority of coal mining companies with the exception of PG Silesia are controlled by the Polish Government.
Tariffs, regulations and customs
Australian companies seeking opportunities in the Polish mining sector need to be aware of the National Geological and Mining Law. The legislation is the basis from which the Ministry of Environment grants concessions for:
- prospecting or exploration of basic minerals (e.g. oil, gas, coal, lignite, CBM, ores of precious metals), brines, curative and thermal waters and all minerals located within the boundaries of the maritime areas of Poland
- non-reservoir storage of substances and disposal of waste in the subsurface
- concessions for other minerals, including common minerals (such as sands, gravels, limestones, sandstones), are granted by local authorities.
Marketing your products and services
The mining industry restructuring has not affected the standard regulations and tariffs, Poland is a member of the European Union and general EU regulations and tariffs apply.
Working with a local partner or appointing a distributor are the most common ways of entering the market.
As the majority of the Polish mining companies are state owned, Australian companies interested in supplying mining products and/or technologies will in most cases need to go through a public procurement process. The required procedure and documentation will be specified in the call for tender.
Imported mining equipment must have the required EU certification and associated documentation. New comers to the Polish market and the European Union should consider approaching the following local institutions to clarify the requirements regarding certification and safety testing.
Links and industry contacts
Major coal companies
Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa (JSW) - (coking coal)
Lubelski Wegiel "Bogdanka" SA - (hard coal)
PG Silesia (hard coal)
PGE Gornictwo i Energetyka Konwencjonalna S.A. (lignite)
PGG (Polish Mining Group) - (hard coal)
Government, business and trade
Central Mining Institute (GIG)
Polish Investment and Trade Agency
Ministry of Development
Ministry of Energy
Ministry of Environment
State Mining Authority (WUG)
Technical Approval Department (UDT)
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