“We are almost absolutely certain that it won’t be necessary to close down mines because of the second wave of the coronavirus,” our sources close to the government told us. Mining companies declare they are better prepared than in the spring – Karolina Baca-Pogorzelska, contributor to BiznesAlert.pl, writes.
Coronaviurs in mines
“Of course it’s worse now than in September, but the number of sick miners is under control. It might turn out that a bigger problem will be with the number of miners in quarantine, who were infected by their kids who brought it from schools, but at this point these numbers are too low to interfere with the work in the bituminous coal mines,” argued one of our interlocutors close to the government. “Of course, one cannot be ever sure about anything, but right now we have no plans to close down mines,” they explained. The other source added that because so many miners fell ill in the spring and summer, specialists claimed that their immunity improved, especially that the majority of the crews is constituted by young people.
It also looks like the coal companies, which almost until the end of April seemed to disregard the threat, learned from their previous mistakes. According to data from Monday 26 of October, less than 300 miners in three Silesian coal companies are infected – 244 in Polska Grupa Górnicza (during the peak of the first wave, at the turn of May and June, the number of cases in PGG was at 1400 – Jankowice over 700, Marcel 315, Murcki-Staszic over 370, Sośnica over 460), 28 in Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW), and 21 in Tauron Wydobycie. Lublin’s Bogdanka did not reveal the number of infected miners, but confirmed there were cases in the mine.
“Since the pandemic started, we imposed restrictions at Bogdanka, which are still in force. For instance we introduced one-way traffic for the crew in the pithead building and in the washrooms Both on the surface and underground all employees must wear masks. We added over a dozen underground hand washing stations, and introduced mandatory disinfection of equipment. All employees have unlimited access to disinfectants of various kinds (including specialized preparations for underground usage). Additionally, a number of restrictions were introduced to minimize the risk of infection via expiratory particles, such as the ban on shaking hands, eating sunflower and other seeds and snuffing tobacco,” Artur Wasil, President of the Management Board of Lubelski Węgiel Bogdanka, told us.
He also ensured that the situation was under control and that the management understood its unpredictability. “The number of sick people is rising, both in the mine and in close suoundings, the situation is difficult and dynamic,” Wasil admitted. “The mine’s crisis management team is monitoring and assessing the situation on an ongoing basis. We have to remember we cannot close the mine. If production has to be stopped, which is the worst case scenario, our crews will supervise the situation in the mine to prevent any natural threats. Naturally we are considering various scenarios, but putting the crews in barracks is one of the last solutions on the list,” Bogdanka’s CEO added.
The biggest company in the sector – Polska Grupa Górnicza – announced it would introduce exceptional safety measures. “To ensure safety and continuity of operation, the PGG board increased supervision over actions whose goal is to minimize the risk of coronavirus infections. All employees and other people who are present on the premises of the company were reminded about the requirement to absolutely comply with prevention procedures, especially with regard to social distancing. Direct contact between employees and the company’s customers has to be limited to an absolute minimum,” Tomasz Głogowski, PGG spokesman, told us. PGG requires that anybody who is on its premises must cover their nose and mouth, the company also increased the frequency of disinfecting rooms. “Before coming back to work after a leave, all employees will go through an epidemiological inquiry, and if a risk of exposure is revealed, they will have to take a coronavirus test. The heads of crisis management teams and the company’s organizational units were obliged to, among others, monitor in detail any infections and to cooperate with sanitary supervision. Administrative employees are advised to, among others, work remotely or on a rotating basis,” Głogowski enumerated. “At this point PGG is not planning any breaks in production, but the company will react to the developing situation on an ongoing basis,” he added.
“In the Tauron Wydobycie mines, the tightened safety procedures are still in place, and special emphasis is put on preventative separation of those employees who were at risk of being infected. Wide prevention is a priority behind all the measures we have taken,” Tomasz Cudny, CEO of Tauron Wydobycie, stressed. “We analyzed the conclusions from the first wave of the pandemic in detail, so when it comes to our current prevention measures we are putting even more emphasis on social distancing in the work place, and on looser rules for qualifying employees from high-risk areas to go on quarantine,” he added.
Since March, the company’s mines saw several dozen coronavirus cases, and at this point 21 employees out of 6500 are infected. Over 350 employees went through quarantine so far. Every new employee and contractor is obliged to conduct a genetic test for the coronavirus. To cater for the safety of the employees, the company reorganized the work time in mines, provided protective measures and introduced new rules for transporting people, both when it comes to shaft-hoisting installations, as well as in underground excavations. Everybody who enters or leaves the company premises has to have their temperature measured.
The shaft-hoisting installations are regularly disinfected, and so are underground railway wagons and other means of transporting the crew underground and in designated areas on the surface. Additionally, all mining companies have enough hygiene and disinfectant products, as well as instructions on infection prevention. “The overarching goal is to maintain and protect jobs in the company’s mines, and to ensure safety for the crews working at Tauron Wydobycie, as well as to adapt production to the current market situation,” Cudny explained. “Our crisis management team is monitoring the situation and introduces preventative measures on an ongoing basis. We are analyzing various remedy scenarios depending on how the pandemic will develop,” he added.
Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa was the only company that did not reply on time to our questions on the fight against the coronavirus. JSW’s spokesman is to present the company’s position on Wednesday.