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Hard coal

General information and occurrence

Polish hard coal deposits belong to the Carboniferous Euro-American coal province. In Europe this province forms 2 belts of coal basins: a belt of paralic coal basins that originated near the sea in depressions along the front of the Variscan fold belt which was forming in these times, and that of limnic basins, with coals accumulating in closed basins and intermontane depressions with disconnected internal river systems. In Poland, coal deposits of the Carboniferous age occur in 3 basins (map): 2 basins of the paralic type - the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (USCB) and Lublin Coal Basin (LCB), and 1 of the limnic type - the Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB). The exploitation of coal is being carried out in 2 of these basins (USCB and LCB). In the 3rd of them (LSCB), the exploitation was run in the past and all of 5 deposits have been abandoned for about 20 years.

The Upper Silesian Coal Basin is the major coal basin in Poland. This is the area where all of the operating coal mines are situated except of 1 mine – Bogdanka. The total area of Polish part of USCB is estimated at about 5,600 km2*, from which the area of documented deposits amounts to above 3,049 km2. At present, anticipated economic resources of USCB account for about 80.05% of hard coal domestic resources of Poland.

In the case of Lublin Coal Basin, the area of defined deposit prospective is assumed to be about 4,730 km2, from which documented deposits covers the area of about 1,214 km2. The only active mine is exploiting 3 deposits at the moment – Bogdanka, Lubelskie Zagłębie Węglowe – obszar K-3 and Ostrów – the exploitation of the last mentioned deposit started in December 2021. These 3 deposits above mentioned cover the total area of about 170 km2 and accounts for 14% of the total LCB area.

In the Lower Silesian Coal Basin mining operations were phased out in the year 2000, along with the closing works in the last active coal field – Słupiec (of the Nowa Ruda mine). The coal production ceased in LSCB due to the difficult geological-mining conditions which resulted in clearly excessive exploitation costs. The anticipated economic resources meeting the anticipated economic parameters left in the abandoned mining fields of LSCB were reclassified as anticipated sub-economic. The abandoned anticipated sub-economic coal resources in LSCB were estimated at about 369 million tonnes. In 2011, in order of the Ministry of the Environment, there was the verification of the resources remained in abandoned deposits elaborated. As a part of this verification, there were new geological documentations with recalculated resources for 7 deposits prepared and most of already documented anticipated sub-economic resources were reclassified to anticipated economic resources. Recently, the Basin was a subject of an increasing interest and in the result of searching-exploration works, carried out within the area of LSCB, in 2014 there was the Nowa Ruda Pole Piast Rejon Wacław-Lech deposit and in 2016 the Heddi II deposit – for which the exploitation concession was issued. Nowadays, together with newly documented deposits (in 2014 and in 2016), the anticipated economic resources of LSCB are equal 441.53 million tonnes.

Resources and output

The documented anticipated economic resources of hard coal as of 31.12.2022 amounted to 64,615.81 million tonnes. Energy coals represent almost ¾ of the resources (70.96%) and coke coals – above ¼ (27.83%) whereas the participation of other types of coals remains negligible (1.21%). The resources of the exploited hard coal deposits are equal 27,828.35 million tonnes, accounting for 43.07% of the total anticipated economic resources. In 2022, the number of hard coal deposits in Poland did not change.

Tables below show hard coal resources and the current state of their exploration and development in Poland (Table 1) and in particular hard coal basins (Table 2 – the Lower Silesian Coal Basin; Table 3 – the Upper Silesian Coal Basin; Table 4 – the Lublin Coal Basin).

In 2022 anticipated economic resources of hard coal decreased by 71,893 thousand tonnes in comparison with the previous year. The reasons were:

  • the resources drop caused by the exploitation (-47,052 thousand tonnes) and losses;
  • the resources drops resulted from a new documentation with recalculated resources (supplement) approval for the Dębieńsko 1 deposit (-564 thousand tonnes).

In 2022, the anticipated economic resources covered by the detailed exploration (categories A, B, C1) totaled 30,249.39 million tonnes, accounting for 46.81% of the total anticipated economic resources. The resources documented in a C2 category accounted for 50.44% (32,590.75 million tonnes) and in a D category for 2.75% (1,775.68 million tonnes).

The economic resources of mines, calculated in deposit development plans amounted as of the end of 2022 to 4,266.35 million tonnes, decreasing by 434.61 million tonnes (it means by 9.25%) in relation to the year 2021. The economic resources changes are the result of new deposit development plans elaboration, supplements for such plans and the result of the exploitation and losses. In 2022 such plans and supplements were elaborated for 9 deposits and only in the case of 1 deposit economic resources increased (+54,074 thousand tonnes), whereas for the remaining 8 deposits the resources dropped – by 265,034 thousand tonnes in total. The economic resources are currently calculated within a reference to the duration of the concession for the raw material exploitation thus their real volume in some deposits may be significantly bigger. The updating of the economic resources volume base will be regularly carried out in consecutive deposit development plans.

According to the data supplied by the operators of individual hard coal mines – as of the end of 2022 – the total output equaled 47,053 thousand tonnes, decreasing by 2,458 thousand tonnes (4.96%) in relation to the previous year. The output came from 40 deposits – the same number as in 2021. The exploitation from the Pokój deposit was not carried out and the output from the Wisła I i Wisła II-1 deposit restarted. For the Bzie-Dębina 1 – Zachód and Lubelskie Zagłębie Węglowe – obszar K-6 I K-7 deposits, there have been preparation works carried out. For another year there was no exploitation from the Imielin-Południe deposit recorded.

The figure given below shows changes in resources and production of hard coal in Poland in the years 1989-2022.

In USCB all technological types of hard coal occur – from energy coals (type 31) to coke coals (type 38) and sometimes (mainly in LSCB) anthracite (type 41). In USCB deposits the mean ash content varies from 4.00 to 23.00% and total sulfur content from 0.40 to 9.00%, whereas in LSCB deposits from 10.10 to 38.77% and from 0.54 to 2.83%, respectively. In LCB mainly energy coal (types 31-32) up to gas-coke coal occur of 33-34 types. In LCB deposits mean ash content amounts within the range of 6.15-20.71% and sulfur content 1.28-3.12%.

In the latest edition of The balance of prospective mineral resources of Poland issued in 2020, the assessment of resources prospective for hard coal in Poland was updated*. There were following depth criteria adopted: LCB – 1,250 m for prospective resources (prognostic resources were not assessed); USCB – 1,250/1,300 m, both for prospective and prognostic resources; LSCB – 1,000 m for prognostic resources and 1,250 m for prospective resources. At the same time, the resources were calculated on the basis of the current limit values of the parameters that define the hard coal deposit and its borders, however the minimum bed thickness was accepted as 1.0 m due to the current technological and economic exploitation conditions. Only for LCB, in the border area with Lwów-Wołyń Basin, in which beds with the thickness of 0.6 m are being exploited, such thickness was maintained as the minimal. The total prognostic resources of hard coal in Poland as of 31.12.2018 amounted to 17,004.82 million tonnes and prospective resources to 26,914.19 million tonnes. In particular coal basins the resources were as follows: LSCB – 100.00 mln tonnes of prospective resources (of a hypothetical character); USCB – 4,616.17 million tonnes of prognostic resources and 20,926.58 million tonnes of prospective resources; - LCB – 12,388.65 million tonnes of prognostic resources and 5,887.61 million tonnes of prospective resources.

Prepared by: Agnieszka Malon, Marcin Tymiński

* Jureczka J., Ihnatowicz A., Kotlarek P., Krieger W., Młynarczyk M., 2020 - "Węgiel kamienny (hard coal)". In: "Bilans perspektywicznych zasobów kopalin Polski wg stanu na 31.12.2018 r." (eds. Szamałek K., Szuflicki M., Mizerski W.): 99-112. PIG-PIB, Warszawa [in Polish].