Peat is an organic matter of the Quaternary age, most often Holocene. It is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation. The process of its origin of peat requires high groundwater level and acidic and anaerobic conditions which inhibit decay of plant material.
Peatlands are found mainly in northern part of Poland (about 70 %). They cover an area of about 1.2 million hectares (around 4.2 % of area of the country) and their volume is estimated at over 17 billion m3. Up to the present, almost 50,000 peatlands have been catalogued by the Institute for Land Reclamation and Grassland Farming. According to these records, about 18 thousand of the catalogued peatlands form a potential resource basis for peat harvesting. These peatlands are without any special importance from the point of view of nature protection and at the same time match economic criteria of exploitable mineral raw materials: thickness of deposit not smaller than 1 m, maximum proportion of overburden thickness to mineral deposit - 0,5 and maximum ash content - 30 %.
Peat was added to the list of mineral raw materials by the Polish Geological Mining Law in 1994 but previously granted permissions for its exploitation remained valid for some time. When the amendments to the Geological and Mining Law came into force on 1st January 2002, new regulations became effective to any operations connected with exploration and exploitation of all the peat deposits.
Peat is no longer used as a fuel in Poland. Depending on its physicochemical properties, peat is used in agriculture and horticulture as organic fertilizer and a medium added to a soil to improve its physical properties. It is also used in balneology (peat baths and poultices and mud wraps), medicine and therapeutics.
Peats used in agriculture are highly decomposed, with pH > 4 and ash content not greater than 25 %, and in horticulture high quality, with ash content not greater than 15 % and less advanced decay of organic matter. Moreover, mixtures of peat and mineral matter (mixtures of peat and mineral fertilizers and microelements) are used in agriculture and horticulture.
Peats used in medicine are therapeutical muds which have to be clean microbiologically, with high content of active organic compounds, advanced decay of organic matter, smooth mud consistency, moisture content over 75 % and should not be affected by freezing and defreezing.
There are most important peat deposits (with muds marked out) presented on the map.
In 2010, anticipated resources of peat were estimated at 76.32 million tonnes, increasing by about 0.64 million tonnes in relation to the previous year. Increase of the resources in result of exploration of new deposits turned to be big enough to counterbalance exploitation steadily growing in the last years. According to data provided by operators, production of peat was equal 985.46 thousand tonnes in 2010.
Table 1 shows resources and the current state of exploration and development of peat deposits.
Overall international trade in peat and peat products is small. In 2010 import of peat increased in comparison with the previous year by 47.33 thousand tonnes and amounted to 211.7 thousand tonnes (with the value of PLN 51.5 million) whereas the export of peat slightly decreased (by 7.28 thousand tonnes) and amounted to 44.43 thousand tonnes (with the value of PLN 19,98 million).
Table 2 shows Polish import and export of these commodities.
- B - for solid minerals - mine in building process, for fuels - prepared for exploitation or trial period of the exploitation
- E - exploited
- G - underground natural gas storage facilities
- M - deposit crossed out of the annual report of mineral resources during analized period
- P - deposit covered by preliminary exploration (in C2+D category, for fuels – in C category)
- R - deposit covered by detailed exploration (in A+B+C1 category, for fuels – in A+B category)
- Z - abandoned deposit
- T - deposit exploited temporarily
- K - change of the raw material in deposit
Prepared by: Janina Dyląg, Agnieszka Wosińska