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Hard coal

Polish hard coal deposits belong to the Carboniferous Euro-American coal province. In Europe this province forms two 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 three basins (map): two basins of the paralic type - the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (USCB) and Lublin Coal Basin (LCB), and one of the limnic type - the Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB). The exploitation of coal is being carried out in two of these basins (USCB and LCB). In the third of them (LSCB), the exploitation was run in the past and all of five deposits have been abandoned for about 20 years. For the last couple of years there have been searching and exploring works carried out in this basin resulting in a documentation of 2 new deposits: in 2014 – Nowa Ruda Pole Piast Rejon Wacław-Lech deposit and in 2016 – Heddi II deposit.

The Upper Silesian Coal Basin (USCB) 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 area of Polish part of USCB is estimated at about 5,600 km2. At present, anticipated economic resources of USCB account for about 80.00% of domestic resources of Poland.

In the LCB area there is only one mine which is carrying out the exploitation (Bogdanka). Documented deposits within LCB cover the area of 1,200 km2, whereas prospective resources the area of 9,100 km2. The only active mine is exploiting one deposit at the moment – Bogdanka, whereas in the case of LZW – obszar K-3 deposit the activation process is being carried out. Both of these deposit cover the area of 92 km2 (it accounts for 0.9% of total LCB area). In 2017, there was the concession for the exploitation of Ostrów deposit issued by the Minister of the Environment.

In the Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB) 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 and resulting 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. The resources were recalculated according to the new “deposit criteria” (balance criteria). The calculations applied also to seven LSCB deposits and new anticipated economic resources are now equal 423.98 million tonnes.

Due to the specific geological conditions and the differences in the geological exploration and mining development, the depth of a resources perspective varies between coal basins in Poland and amounts to: 1,600 m in LSCB, 1,250/1,300-1,500 m in USCB and 1,250 m in LCB. Total hard coal prognostic resources in Poland amounted to 20,041.7 million tonnes and perspective resources amounted to 31,652.7 million tonnes as of 31.12.2010*. As a result of the prospecting, exploration and documenting works carried out in the last few years new resources have been documented and therefore such volumes could change. In the coming years a new perspective balance of raw materials in Poland would be elaborated, taking into account the latest data.

The anticipated economic resources as of 31.12.2017 totaled 60,496 million tonnes. Energy coals represent almost 3/4 of the resources (70.67%) and coke coals – above 1/4 (28.03%) whereas the participation of other types of coals remains negligible (1.30%). Resources of the exploited coal deposits were equal 22,497 million tonnes, accounting for 37.19% of the total anticipated economic resources. There was 1 new deposit documented within USCB area in 2017 – Rydułtowy 1.

Table 1 shows total hard coal resources and the current state of their exploration and development in Poland.

In 2017 anticipated economic resources increased by 1,917,159 thousand tonnes in comparison with the previous year. The reasons were:

  • the resources growth due to the documentation of 1 new deposit within USCB area – Rydułtowy 1 (+1,158.57 million tonnes);
  • the resources growth due to the new documentations with recalculated resources accepted for 4 already documented deposits (+1,030.06 million tonnes): Budryk (+373.65 million tonnes), Bytom III (+3.99 million tonnes), Ostrów (+397.93 million tonnes) and Zofiówka (+254.49 million tonnes);
  • the resources drop due to the new documentations with recalculated resources accepted for 3 deposits (-221.48 million tonnes): Jejkowice (-143.26 million tonnes), Rydułtowy (-2.21 million tonnes) and Rymer (-76.01 million tonnes);
  • resources drop caused by the exploitation and losses.

In 2017, anticipated economic resources covered by the detailed exploration (categories A, B, C1 of the Polish classification of resources) totaled 27,389.08 million tonnes, accounting for 45.28% of total anticipated economic resources. Resources documented in a C2 category accounted for 51.63% (31,234.71 million tonnes) and in a D category for 3.09% (1,871.81 million tonnes).

Economic resources of mines – as shown in the approved deposit development plans – were equal 3,200.87 million tonnes, increasing by 218.15 million tonnes in relation to the year 2016. The resources changes were a result of new deposit development plans elaboration, the supplements for such plans and a result of the exploitation and losses. In 2017 such plans and supplements were worked out for 16 deposits of which in the case of 5 deposits economic resources increased despite the running exploitation (the total growth equal 347.22 million tonnes). 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.

According to the production data supplied by the operators of individual hard coal mines – as of the end of 2017 – the total output equaled 56,824 thousand tonnes, decreasing by 9,660 thousand tonnes (14.53%) in relation to the previous year (Table 2).

The figure given below shows changes in resources and production of hard coal in Poland in the years 1989-2017.

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 the mean ash content in particular coal types varies from 4.00% to 62.00% and total sulfur content from 0.36% to 3.48%, in LSCB from 10.10% to 38.77% and from 0.69% to 1.61%, respectively. In LCB mainly energy coal up to gas-coke coal occur (types 31-34). In LCB mean ash content amounts within the range of 6.15%-20.71% and sulphur content 1.28%-3.12%.

Prepared by: Agnieszka Malon, Marcin Tymiński

*Jureczka J., Zdanowski A., Ihnatowicz A., Krieger W., Wilk S., 2011 - Węgiel kamienny. In: Bilans perspektywicznych zasobów kopalin Polski wg stanu na 31 XII 2009 r. (ed. S. Wołkowicz, T. Smakowski, S. Speczik): 51-62. PIG-PIB, Warszawa.