Illegal Backyard Coal Mining Surges in Poland as Energy Anxiety Outweighs Health and Climate

Two people mine coal illegally in a field in Walbrzych, Poland
Illegal coal mining in a field in Walbrzych, Poland. JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP via Getty Images
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The global energy crisis set off by Russia’s war in Ukraine and European reliance on methane gas from Putin’s authoritarian regime has spawned a resurgence in backyard coal mining in Poland, Bloomberg reports.

More than three-quarters of the EU’s coal-heated homes are in Poland, where 37% of families heat their homes with coal, despite its significant health risks (and climate impacts).

Poland also has lots of easily accessible coal, sometimes as shallow as a meter underground and when people are burning garbage to stay warm and unemployment is as high as 12% in former (formerly legal) coal mining areas, “artisanal” (illegal) coal mining pays the bills and keeps houses heated.

In Walbrzych, a four-man team can dig up coal worth 1,000 zloty ($220), more than half an average weekly salary, in just half a day. “We will dig here as long as we will be able to extract coal,” Grzegorz, who refused to give his last name, told Bloomberg. “And then we will dig a new pit.”

For a deeper dive:

Bloomberg

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