KNURÓW (POLAND) (AFP) – “It’s a family thing. My father, my grandfather were miners, so I am,” says Arkadiusz Wojcik at a coal mine in the southern Polish town of Knurow. Defying the danger to life and limb of descending into the mine on a daily basis, Poland’s coal miners still pass down the job from father to son.
The occupation may be on its way out in much of the West, but in Poland’s Silesian coal country it is thriving thanks to high wages and support from a government that refuses to decarbonise the economy. In Brussels, Berlin and Paris, coal is the enemy. It produces the carbon dioxide blamed for the planet’s rising temperatures.
In Poland however, coal is a way of life, with no signs of changing. “Here in Silesia, it’s a tradition,” says Wojcik, 36, after working a night shift 650 metres (2,100 feet) underground. The Knurow mine is operational day and night, with the schedule divided into four shifts. But one thing is constant: the risk.
“Of course we get scared. Accidents happen, it’s part of the job,” Radoslaw Ruminski says, after exiting a mine lift. “But we don’t think about it every day when we go underground,” the 37-year-old tells AFP.
So far this year, 21 miners have died on the job in Poland. Last year, there were 15 deaths, while in 2014 — a particularly grim year — 30 miners lost their lives. To offset the danger, there is money.
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