How to facilitate the transition out of coal

Coal miner. (Image by Biswarup Ganguly, Wikimedia Commons)

Consulting firm GlobalData and the Stockholm Environment Institute joined forces to provide a series of recommendations on how to address the social challenges related to the closure of coal mines.

The dossier is presented as a conversation between the consultancy’s mining writer JP Casey and Claudia Strambo, a research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute.

After acknowledging that coal mining remains the backbone of many local communities, both experts state that this means that simply closing coal mines without putting additional resources in place is not viable.

Examples of good practices, they say, can be found Ruhr region of Germany, where over the last 50 years, coal mining has slowly been phased out. 

Despite employment in coal mines falling from 390,000 in 1960 to 11,000 by 2014, and the sector’s contribution to the local economy declining from 61% to 21% over the same period, the transition out of the black fuel has been more fluid than dramatic.

Based on how things were done in Ruhr, Strambo says that there are key strategies that companies should take into consideration when moving away from coal mining:

  • Making closure and post-closure plans together with local authorities and trade unions in order to manage the risks associated with the closure
  • Helping workers approaching redundancy through tailored training programs, support finding work placements, counselling and mental health support, and redundancy payments
  • Maintaining open and honest communication about the closure
  • Supporting local organisations in charge of steering and/or coordinating the efforts to create new jobs and address the negative socio-economic impacts of the closure
  • Using socially responsible downsizing practices such as early retirement support, worker training programs and redistributing workers between jobs and sites
  • Resisting the temptation to keep things the same regardless of changing trends
  • Moving towards diversification to survive
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