The Czech Republic’s only hard-coal miner, state-owned OKD, will extend mining by at least half a year to the end of 2023 and is looking at prolonging operations until 2025 amid Europe’s energy crisis, finance minister Zbynek Stanjura said on Thursday.
The move is likely to add to environmentalists’ concerns that surging fuel prices and Russian supply fears could prompt more countries to keep using the most polluting fossil fuel.
OKD, which supplies the northeastern industrial region near the Polish and Slovak borders, had planned to deliver half a million tonnes of coal before ending operations in mid-2023, but now expects to produce 1.3 million tonnes next year, the same as in 2022, OKD chairman Roman Sikora told a news conference.
OKD’s key customers are a power plant in Detmarovice, operated by state-controlled electricity producer CEZ, as well as heating plants run by Veolia and iron mills.
“The decision is based on three important facts: the government’s … effort to secure enough coal at least for the next two heating seasons, huge demand by domestic customers caused by interruptions in supplies from the east due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and sufficiently high prices of hard coal on world markets keeping OKD in profit,” Stanjura told the news conference.
Detmarovice was due to end operation in spring 2023, but CEZ said in April it would continue running to bolster the country’s energy security.
Stanjura said OKD might continue mining beyond 2023.
“If there is interest, if economic conditions allow for the mining to be profitable … mining could continue in 2024 and 2025,” he said, adding a new licence would be needed for mining beyond 2023 and OKD was working on that.
OKD employs 2,600 workers, including from Poland and Slovakia, in its deep shafts, and 700 more work for its contractors.
(By Robert Muller; Editing by Mark Potter)