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Hard coal

Polish hard coal deposits belong to the Carboniferous Euro-American coal province. In Europe this province is represented by 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). Exploitation of coal is being continued in the first two of these basins (USCB and LCB). The third, Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB), is at present of historical value only.

The Upper Silesia Coal Basin (USCB) is the major coal basin in Poland. This is the area where all of the operating coal mines are situated except one large Bogdanka mine. The latter is a single mine operating in the Lublin Coal Basin (LCB). Mining operations were phased out in the Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB) in the year 2000, along with closing works in the last active coal field, the Słupiec coal field of the Nowa Ruda mine. Coal production ceased in LSCB due to difficult geological-mining conditions mining and resulting clearly excessive exploitation costs.

The area of Polish part of USCB is estimated at about 5,600 km2. The currently exploited coal deposits occupy about 20 % (about 1,106 km2) of that area, reserve deposits with resources proved by detail exploration (category C1 in Polish classification) – 600 km2 (11 %), reserve deposits with resources covered by preliminary exploration (category C2 and D in Polish classification) – 500 km2 (9 %), and exhausted and abandoned deposits – 800 km2 (15 %). Prospective resources explored to the depths of 1,250-1,300 m occupy about 23 % (1,291 km2) of total area of USCB. The remaining parts of the coal basin mainly include areas with prognostic resources occurring at depths exceeding 1,000 m and unperspective peripheral areas. At present anticipated economic resources of USCB account for about 80.1 % of domestic resources of Poland.

Coal resources of LCB remained at the early stages of development as prospecting and exploration works were not intensified in the last decades. This results in relatively poor geological knowledge of the Lublin basin, especially its boundaries. The available data make it possible to assume that the perspective coal resources are spread over an area of about 9,100 km2. Documented deposits cover the area of about 1,000 km2. The Bogdanka mine, the first and the only mine operating in LCB, exploits a deposit occupying an area of about 77 km2, which corresponds to 0,8 % of total area of LCB. Reserve fields covered by detailed exploration occupy an area of 300 km2 and those covered by preliminary exploration – 600 km2. As shown by the latest data, the anticipated economic resources of LCB account for about 19.2 % of anticipated economic resources of Poland.

The anticipated economic resources left in the abandoned mining fields of LSCB were reclassified as anticipated subeconomic. 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). Calculations applied also to seven LSCB deposits and new anticipated economic resources are now equal 359.72 million tonnes.

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 31.12.2009. In USCB prognostic resources totaled 9,193.4 million tonnes (including 1,081.2 million tonnes of energy coals and 8,112.2 million tonnes of coke coals) and perspective resources totaled 25,533 million tonnes (19,156.8 million tonnes of energy coals and 6,376.2 million tonnes of coke coals). In LCB these resources amounted to 10,847.7 million tonnes and 5,887.6 million tonnes respectively. LSCB prognostic resources equal 0.39 million tonnes (resources of Heddi deposits which was crossed out of “The balance of mineral resources deposits in Poland”) and perspective resources amounted to 232 million tonnes (Wałbrzych and Nowa Ruda area).

The anticipated economic resources as of 31.12.2012 totaled 48,226 million tonnes. Energy coals represent almost ¾ of the resources and coke coals – about ¼ whereas the share of other types of coals remains negligible. Resources of the exploited coal deposits were equal 19,131 million tonnes, accounting for 39.7 % of the total anticipated economic resources.

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

In 2012 anticipated economic resources decreased by 315.23 million tonnes in comparison with the previous year. That was mainly due to the documentations of six deposits (accepted in 2004 but not included in “The balance…”) – these documentations were prepared in order of the Minister of Environment within “The verification of non-exploited hard coal deposits in USCB” – phase II, covering 16 deposits. This recalculation resulted in anticipated economic resources decrease at 934.29 million tonnes in following deposits: Anna-Pole Południowe, Studzienice, Oświęcim-Polanka, Ćwiklice and Dankowice. There was also the Rybnik-Jastrzębie deposit crossed out of “The balance…” in 2012.

In 2012, anticipated economic resources covered by detailed exploration (categories A, B and C1 of the Polish classification of resources) totaled 20,213.62 million tonnes, accounting for 41.9 % of total anticipated economic resources.

Economic resources of mined deposits as shown in the approved mine management plans were equal 4,210.59 million tonnes, increasing by 32.14 million tonnes in relation to the year 2011.

According to the production data for the end of 2012 as supplied by operators of individual hard coal mines, total production equaled 71,339 thousand tonnes, increasing by 3,702 thousand tonnes in relation to the previous year.

The figure given below shows changes in resources and production of hard coal in Poland in the years 1989-2012.

In USCB all technological types of hard coal occur. There is energy coal, coke coal and sometimes anthracite. Mean ash content varies from 11 % to 17 % and sulfur content from 0.59 % to 2.3 %. In LCB mainly energy coal and coke coal occur. Mean ash content amounts for 14.63 % and sulfur content vary from 1.21 % to 1.46 %.

Prepared by: Agnieszka Malon, Marcin Tymiński