1. Polish hard coal and lignite reserves and share in the power system

Hard coal deposits in Poland are located in three regions: Upper Silesia, the Lublin region and Lower Silesia. However, the main area in Poland is the Upper Silesian Coal Basin as almost all mining plants are located within it. Only one mine “Bogdanka” operates in the Lublin Coal Basin and the coal extraction in Lower Silesia was completely ceased in year 2000. Despite the important role of coal in Polish energetic system, its mining has been steadily declining for several decades. In 1979 the extraction reached nearly 200 million tonnes but in 2016 only approximately 66 million tonnes of this raw material were extracted in Poland.

Hard coal is the basic energy resource in Poland. Approximately a half of Polish electricity production, 79.9 TWh (48.4%), is generated at hard coal-fired power plants. Current geological resources of hard coal amount to 58.5 billion tonnes. Considering the extraction and demand at the current level, these resources would be enough for over 860 years of extraction. However, the real sufficiency of hard coal reserves in Poland is much lower and amounts to 40-50 years depending on the amount of losses in operation. This is because most of the coal deposits cannot be extracted due to technical, economic or social constrains.

Lignite reserves in Poland amount to 1.4 billion tonnes with a further 22.1 billion tonnes of economic resources. Two of lignite mine are located in central Poland and a third one lies in the south-west of the country. In 2015, total lignite production was 63.1 million tonnes, 98.7% of which was used by mine-mouth power plants. About 32% (52.9 TWh) of Polish electricity production 52.9 TWh (32.1%) was generated at lignite-fired power plants. Lignitemining in Poland occupies a total of over 37 thousand ha. The Bełchatów Coal Mine is thelargest lignite mine in Poland. In 2015, the Bełchatów mine produced 42.1 million tonnes oflignite, which is 66.7% of Poland’s total lignite production.


2. Geographic and population characteristics of Upper Silesia

Upper Silesia – officially known as Śląskie Voivodship – has an area of 12,209 km² and is located in the southern Poland at Silesian Lowland, Silesian-Cracow Upland, the OświęcimBasin, the Westbeskid Foothills, and the Western Beskids. In the north-south dimension, the province extends over a length of 189 km, in the east-west dimension, the region span is 138 km. The shape of the surface is upland and mountainous. The highest point is the top of the Five Mounds Mountain – 1534 m above sea level.

The population of Upper Silesia is 4.57 million people and the province has the highest degree of urbanization and population density: 78% of its population live in towns and cities. The population density is 379 people per square kilometre (compared to the national average of 124). The Silesian Voivodeship is also the largest urbanized area in Central and Eastern Europe. Over 66% of the population is of working age. However, since 1989, the population has been steadily decreasing mainly as a result of deaths and a negative migration balance.


3. Economic activities and employment

The Silesian region is the most industrialized region in Poland. The most important regional industries are: mining, iron, lead and zinc metallurgy, power industry, engineering, automobile, chemical, building materials and textile. There are 19 coal mines operating at the moment. Most of the mining is derived from the Upper Silesian Industrial District(Górnośląski Okręg Przemysłowy) and the Rybnik Coal District (Rybnicki Okręg Węglowy)with its major cities Rybnik, Jastrzębie Zdrój, Żory and Wodzisław Śląski. The largest mining companies in the region are: Polska Grupa Górnicza (PGG – Polish Mining Group) – largestproducer of hard coal in Poland; Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW) – largest coke producer in the European Union; and Katowicki Holding Węglowy.

The coal mining dominated the Silesian economy in the past but nowadays other industries such as car manufacturing, steel production, transport, machinery and chemical industries are becoming more and more important. There are nearly 200,000 companies and enterprises operating in the region and 60% of them are in the service sector, producing over 13% of the country’s GDP. The Upper Silesian Metropolis has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Poland. Over 66% of the population is of working age. However, since 1989, the population has been steadily decreasing mainly as a result of deaths and a negative migration balance. 42% of the active population is employed in the industry and 47% in services.


4. Stakeholders interested for the transition of Upper Silesia to a post-coal era

The region is one of the most polluted regions in Poland. In terms of environmental pollution, Silesia accounts for 40% of the national greenhouse gas emissions. The growth of industrial production as well as coal-based power and heat generation are the main source of air pollution. However, the concentration of particles recently has decreased owing to environmental protection efforts – between 2000 and 2009, dust emissions were cut by 70% and sulphur dioxide by 45%. Mining of 1 Mg coal generates circa 0.4 Mg of mining waste and tailings, of which the majority is stored in aboveground (about 1,300 ha) and belowground (about 1,500 ha) spoil heaps. Reclaim treatments are mostly carried out with the reclamation to forest, planting of trees, rarely to parks and leisure, other kind of grasslands. A negative phenomenon in the reclamation of the considered sites is locating spoil heaps in subsidence troughs. Therefore, the region has one of the largest devastated and degraded areas in Poland. The developing a strategy for dealing with such areas, their subsequent development and reclamation is still necessary.

As the major stakeholder for the transition should be mentioned the authorities of ŚląskieVoivodship. The Silesian Voivodship set up a program (“Direction Silesia 3.0”) aimed at transition of Silesian economy into low carbon economy. The program should increase entrepreneur activity and innovation for a new economy, contribute to revitalization of the region and lead to metropolisation of the upper Silesian agglomeration in relation with other agglomerations of Silesian Voivodship. Indispensable part of the program is development of friendly infrastructure, friendly transport and energetics and social development by increasing occupational competences, civil activity and social innovations.

Other stakeholders participating in the transition of Upper Silesia to post-coal area include:

  • PGE Mining and Conventional Energy – Bełchatów coal mine (biggest open pit coalmine in Europe)
  • POLSKA GRUPA GÓRNICZA (PGG – Polish Mining Group) – largest producer of hard coal in Poland;
  • JASTRZĘBSKA SPÓŁKA WĘGLOWA (JSW) – largest coke producer in the European Union;
  • Entrepreneurs and scientific units operating in the sector,
  • Katowice Special Economic Zone
  • Grupa Azoty ZA KĘDZIERZYN / PPG
  • Central Mining Institute
  • Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal