Kosovo miners return from underground, ending 3-day strike

Hundreds of miners in Kosovo are back on shift following a three-day work stoppage to protest against the Kosovo government, which backtracked on an earlier decision to take control of the Trepca mining complex. 

Reuters reported that the strike – which at one point involved around 800 employees – was called off after the government agreed to reconsider its decision.

According to the report, the backtrack was due to a “furious response from Serbia,” which does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and which claims 75 percent of the lead-zinc-silver mines. 

The miners, who stayed underground in protest, want the government to take over administration of the complex in order to stop it from being liquidated, and to keep Serbia from having a say in its future, the Winnipeg Free Press reported last Wednesday.

The group of mines, which once employed 20,000 people and accounted for the majority of the former Yugoslavia’s mineral wealth, has become mixed up in the region’s complex ethnic politics – with part of the mines lying in the northern part of Kosovo controlled by minority Serbs. Leaders of Kosovo’s Albanian ethnic group are also calling for a government takeover of the Trepca complex after previous attempts at privatization failed.

Meanwhile in Poland, threats by unions have forced Poland to abandon plans to shut down unprofitable coal mines. The Financial Times reported last week that 10 days after miners organized strikes underground and street protests, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz reversed an earlier plan to close pits. The capitulation is expected to cost the government up to $740 million, according to the FT.