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Polish coal mines continue maintenance works amid pandemic

WARSAW (Reuters) - Twelve Polish coal mines, which the government said earlier in June would halt production to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus infections among miners, have continued maintenance works for safety reasons.

Poland’s State Assets Minister Jacek Sasin said on June 8 output would be stopped for three weeks at two mines owned by state-run JSW and in 10 operated by PGG.

But industry sources and the mining companies representatives said that care and maintenance works continued at the 12 mines.

A source familiar with the situation said the 10 PGG mines are operating at 30-50% of normal operations, depending on the mine. If they were fully closed for three weeks, PGG’s output would fall by 1.3-1.5 million tonnes, sources said.

PGG has declined to comment.

JSW’s spokesman said the two of its mines affected are operating at 20-30% of normal levels, but added this was a very rough estimate, which varies depending on the mine and given day.

JSW declined to provide information on the average output of the two mines.

“It is obvious that minimum works have to be maintained at the coal mines for security reasons,” said a spokesman at the state assets ministry.

The 12 mines are expected to operate at the minimum levels until June 28.

The announcement by Sasin to halt output at the mines sparked off criticism from mining trade unions. The Solidarity union said it would lead to permanent closures as the government was already planning to restructure the industry.

But union representatives said later that the heads of particular coal mines presented them with detailed plans of maintenance works during the three-week period.

Poland reported 300 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, 129 of which were in the Silesia coal region. Last week Sasin said the situation in Polish coal mines has stabilized.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; editing by David Evans