Ukraine’s crumbling coal mines

The World

This man is the chief engineer in this mine and we’re going down 200 meters to the first floor of this mine. I can feel the pressure in my head as we descent. The miners have to trudge along dark, damp tunnels sometimes for miles before they get to the coalface. Now below us men are digging this stuff out of this pit and sending it up to the surface. This man has been working for a year and he says you get used to it. but Ukrainian mines have an appalling safety record, the second worst in the world, and down here it’s not hard to see why�these tunnels are old and badly maintained with rusted supports and air full of highly combustible coal dust. In July 2002 at this mine, an accident killed 35 miners. This woman lost her husband that day and she’s quite clear about where she thinks the blame lies, with the mine. The management says the deaths were caused by human error, not by faulty equipment, but the mine’s Deputy Director admits money is a problem. This mine is typical because it’s both dangerous and runs at a loss. So why continue to mine? One reason is that the mines provide employment for thousands of people, but some believe coal is also a key strategic resource because Ukraine doesn’t have oil or gas, but tons of coal reserves. This analyst says the goal is energy independence from Russia. Despite its vast reserves, Ukraine is a net importer of coal because its ancient mines are unable to produce enough coal at a competitive price but with enough investment that could change. But as the global financial crisis begins to bite here, investment seems like a far off prospect.

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