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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 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. Nevertheless, there have been searching and exploring works carried out in this basin recently which resulted in a documentation of Nowa Ruda Pole Piast Rejon Wacław-Lech deposit in 2014 and Heddi II deposit in 2016. For Heddi II deposit, there was an exploitation concession issued and the process of preparing for the exploitation is being currently under way.

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 total area of Polish part of USCB is estimated at about 5,600 km2, from which the area of documented deposits amounts to above 3,045 km2. At present, anticipated economic resources of USCB account for about 81.21% of hard coal domestic resources of Poland.

In the case of LCB, the area of defined deposit prospectives is assumed to be about 4,730 km2, from which documented deposits covers the area of about 1,200 km2. The only active mine is exploiting one deposit at the moment – Bogdanka, whereas two other deposits are being currently prepared for the exploitation (Lubelskie Zagłębie Węglowe – obszar K-3 and Ostrów deposits). The three deposits mentioned above cover the total area of about 171 km2 and accounts for 14.25% of the total LCB area.

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 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 seven deposits prepared and most of already documented anticipated sub-economic resources were reclassified to anticipated economic resources. Nowadays, together with newly documented deposits (in 2014 and in 2016), the anticipated economic resources of LSCB are equal 423.98 million tonnes.

Resources and output

The documented anticipated economic resources as of 31.12.2019 amounted to 64,329.84 million tonnes. Energy coals represent almost ¾ of the resources (70.26%) and coke coals – above ¼ (28.51%) whereas the participation of other types of coals remains negligible (1.23%). The resources of the exploited hard coal deposits were equal 27,233.84 million tonnes, accounting for 42.33% of the total anticipated economic resources. There was one new deposit documented within USCB area in 2019 – Dankowice 1, which was allocated from already existing Dankowice deposit.

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

In 2019 anticipated economic resources of hard coal increased by 2,893,622 thousand tonnes in comparison with the previous year. The reasons were:

  • the resources growth due to the documentation of new deposit within USCB area – Dankowice 1 (+72,054 thousand tonnes);
  • the resources growth due to the new documentations with recalculated resources accepted for 5 already documented deposits (+3,248,355 thousand tonnes): Byczyna (+210,526 thousand tonnes), Murcki (+1,084,541 thousand tonnes), Wesoła (+923,378 thousand tonnes), Zabrze-Bielszowice (+123,956 thousand tonnes) and Ziemowit (+905,954 thousand tonnes);
  • the resources drop due to the new documentations with recalculated resources accepted for 4 deposits (-339,448 thousand tonnes): Dankowice (-60,802 thousand tonnes), Jas-Mos (-128,794 thousand tonnes), Lędziny (-76,908 thousand tonnes) and Śmiłowice (-72,944 thousand tonnes);
  • resources drop caused by the exploitation and losses.

In 2019 the anticipated economic resources covered by the detailed exploration (categories A, B, C1) totaled 30,040 million tonnes, accounting for 46.70% of total anticipated economic resources. The resources documented in a C2 category accounted for 50.31% (32,364.56 million tonnes) and in a D category for 2.99% (1,925.29 million tonnes).

The economic resources of mines calculated in the deposit development plans amounted as of the end of 2019 to 4,779.20 million tonnes, increasing by 1,173.75 thousand tonnes (it means by 32.55%) in relation to the year 2018. The resources changes were the result of the new deposit development plans elaboration, the supplements for such plans and the result of the exploitation and losses. In 2019 such plans and supplements were worked out for 18 deposits and in the case of 16 deposits economic resources increased despite the running exploitation – the total growth was equal 1,257,967 thousand tonnes. 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 2019 – the total output equaled 64,063 thousand tonnes, increasing by 180 thousand tonnes (0.28%) 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 1989-2019.

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 0.69% to 1.61%, respectively. In LCB mainly energy coal up to gas-coke coal occur (types 31-34). 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.