Poland mine accidents kill up to 12, with 11 others still missing

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WARSAW, Poland — The death toll from two coal mine accidents last week in southern Poland has risen to 12 after the bodies of two missing miners were found at one mine and another worker at a separate mine died of his injuries, authorities said Monday.

The discovery of the two bodies means that at least six miners were killed during Saturday’s tremor and methane gas discharge at the Borynia-Zofiowka mine. Four other missing miners are still being sought by rescue workers.

Also, a miner injured by methane gas blasts Wednesday at the Pniowek mine died in the hospital on Sunday, said the Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa (JSW) company, which operates both mines in Poland’s southern Jastrzebie-Zdroj region, close to the Czech border.

Six people have been killed in the repeated explosions at Pniowek’s mine. Ten rescue workers were also injured in the latest methane blasts that occurred on Thursday. The search for the seven Pniowek miners who are still missing has been suspended. For safety reasons, teams are currently building two solid partitions that will seal off the blasts area and the rest of Pniowek’s mine.

In addition to the victims and their families, many miners were also injured and some of them ended up in hospital with severe burns.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said it was a “black week” for the nation’s coal industry that employs almost 80,000 miners, and said the families of victims will receive state support. As he was visiting the Central Mining Rescue Station (Bytom), in southern Poland, he spoke.

Prosecutors have launched investigations into the accidents. Morawiecki indicated that experts will review conditions and procedures in both mines. The majority of Polish coal mines can be found in the south Silesia region. Many have high levels of methane.

Some 70% of Poland’s energy comes from coal, a proportion that has been sharply criticized by the European Union and environmental groups who are concerned about CO2 emissions and meeting climate change goals.

Poland has been working to reduce its coal use. Morawiecki recently said Poland has stopped coal imports from Russia and its ally Belarus in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Poland has for years been reducing its dependence on Russian energy sources.

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