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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). 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 remain abandoned. For the last couple of years there have been searching and exploring works carried out in this basin resulting in a documentation of two new deposits: Nowa Ruda Pole Piast Rejon Wacław-Lech and Heddi II.

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 one large – Bogdanka mine. The area of Polish part of USCB is estimated at about 5,600 km2. At present anticipated economic resources of USCB account for about 80.23% of domestic resources of Poland.

In the LCB area there is only one mine which is carrying out the exploitation (Bogdanka mine). Documented deposits within LCB cover the area of 1,200 km2, whereas prospective resources the area of 9,100 km2. Bogdanka mine exploits two deposits – Bogdanka and LZW – obszar K-3, which cover the area of 92 km2 (it accounts for 0.9% of total LCB area).

In the Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB) mining operations were phased out in the year 2000, along with closing works in the last active coal field – Słupiec coal field of the Nowa Ruda mine. Coal production ceased in LSCB due to difficult geological-mining conditions and resulting in clearly excessive exploitation costs. The anticipated economic resources 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). 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 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 prospecting, explorating 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.

Anticipated economic resources as of 31.12.2016 totaled 58,578 million tonnes. Energy coals represent almost 3/4 of the resources (71.56%) and coke coals – above 1/4 (27.09%) whereas the share of other types of coals remains negligible (1.35%). Resources of the exploited coal deposits were equal 22,222 million tonnes, accounting for 37.93% of the total anticipated economic resources. There were three new deposits documented within USCB area in 2016: Chwałowice 1, Imielin Północ and Marcel 1, whereas only one deposit documented in LSCB area – Heddi II.

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

In 2016 anticipated economic resources increased by 2,357,957 thousand tonnes in comparison with the previous year. The reasons were:

  • resources growth due to the documentation of 4 new deposits (+2,256.24 million tonnes): within LSCB area – Heddi II (+0.93 million tonnes); within USCB area – Chwałowice 1 (+1,223.03 million tonnes), Imielin Północ (+766.23 million tonnes) and Marcel 1 (+266.05 million tonnes);
  • resources growth due to the new documentations with recalculations of resources for 3 already documented deposits (+824.65 million tonnes): Bytom I-1 (+2.38 million tonnes), Rydułtowy (+415.66 million tonnes) and Szczygłowice (+406.61 million tonnes);
  • resources drop due to the new documentations with recalculations of resources for 3 deposits (-650.15 million tonnes): Anna (-2.00 million tonnes), Chwałowice (-643.75 million tonnes) and Marcel (-4.40 million tonnes);
  • resources drop caused by the exploitation and losses.

There were also new documentations – with resources remained unchanged – approved for Bytom II-1 and Centrum deposits (due to the exploitation end) and for Powstańców Śląskich and Powstańców Śląskich 1 (the updating of deposits boundaries).

In 2016, anticipated economic resources covered by detailed exploration (categories A, B, C1 of the Polish classification of resources) totaled 26,410.94 million tonnes, accounting for 45.09% of total anticipated economic resources. Resources documented in C2 category accounted for 51.61% and in D category for 3.30%.

Economic resources of mined deposits as shown in the approved mine management plans were equal 2,982.72 million tonnes, decreasing by 590.97 million tonnes in relation to the year 2015 due to the exploitation, losses and new mine management plans. These resources are currently calculated with a reference to the duration of the concession for exploitation thus their real volume in some deposits may be much bigger.

According to the production data supplied by operators of individual hard coal mines – as of the end of 2016 – total production equaled 66,484 thousand tonnes, increasing by 1,414 thousand tonnes (2.17%) 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 1989-2016.

In USCB all technological types of hard coal occur. There is energy coal (type 31), coke coal (type 38) and sometimes anthracite (type 42). In USCB mean ash content varies from 4.2% to 62% and sulfur content from 0.4% to 3.5%, in LCB from 10.1% to 38.77% and from 0.69% to 1.61%, respectively. In LCB mainly energy coal and gas-coke coal occur (types 31-34). In LSCB mean ash content amounts within the range of 6.15%-18.11% and sulphur content 1.35-3.12%.

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.