Romania is home to one hard coal mining area and two lignite regions. In 2018, 22.1 percent of electricity was generated by burning coal. Until 2018, Romania was a net exporter of electricity, but the additional costs of CO2 emission allowances under the EU emissions trading system have made non-EU power generation more competitive, and Romania became an electricity importer from non-EU countries since 2019.
Compleul Energetic Hunedoara (CEH) is a state-owned electricity and heat producer that operates four underground mines and two coal power stations where most of Romania’s hard coal is burnt. In November 2018, the European Commission found that CEH had received around €60 million of state aid that was incompatible with EU rules, and in 2019, CEH filed for insolvency.
Coal is the only significant indigenous energy resource in the Czech Republic. Large quantities of hard coal from the Czech Republic are exported to Slovakia, Poland, Austria, and Hungary. Ostravsko-Karvinské Doly is the only hard coal producer in the country and operates three underground mines that produce thermal and coking coal. The largest deposits are located in the Upper Silesian Coal Basin, which covers an area of 6,500 square kilometres. This coal basin – a large proportion of which is located in Poland – ranks among the largest in Europe.
Despite its long mining history, resistance against mining is growing, and the majority of the population supports a fast coal phase-out. Anti-coal movements have organised blockades and campaigned against mining since at least the 1990s, and a new grassroots movement, Limity jsme my (“We are the limits!”), emerged in 2015, primarily fighting lignite mines. When Limity jsme my announced the first Czech Climate Camp in 2017, they were promptly listed as an ‘extremist organisation’ by the Czech Ministry of Interior but managed to take direct action and occupy the Bílina lignite mine in 2017 and again in 2018.
Ukraine ranks seventh in the world in terms of proven coal reserves, of which thermal coal accounts for 70 percent and coking coal 30 percent. The coal lies very deep. In 2018, there were 47 mines, some of which are in the land annexed by Russia in 2014. Due to the conflict Ukraine has been importing thermal coal for electricity production.
“Coal is our heritage, not our future” is a central part of the message against coal mines in the North East of England. In 2020, three applications for new or extended opencast coal mines were defeated at the planning stages thanks to community campaigns in this part of England. This builds on years of resistance to opencast coal extraction methods. Local people and activists from across the country occupied and blocked access to the most recent new opencast mine in County Durham for 50 days in 2018, and prevented the opencast from expanding.
The UK’s use of coal is in steep decline and most coal is now imported. These imports are challenged by groups working in solidarity with communities affected by coal mining abroad. The move towards coal imports started in the 1970s, and accelerated during the year-long miners’ strike in 1984-5 when the Conservative government, led by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, wanted to destroy the power of the trade unions and chose the National Union of Miners as the target.
British mines are located close to historic mining villages in parts of the UK that are amongst the most deprived in the country. These areas never fully recovered from the unemployment caused by Thatcher’s Conservative government, and exacerbated by their austerity measures.
Opencast mining threatens to take the last public resource; open green spaces. Where deep mines brought the community together, opencast mining is highly divisive.
Community resistance, including legal challenges and direct action, has shown the strength of opposition to both opencast mines and deep mines for coking coal.
There are currently no underground coal mines of significant size, but two companies are trying to get local government planning permission for new underground coking coal mines; mainly to supply European markets until 2049. The more advanced of these applications is in the final stages of being granted planning permission at the time of writing, but local community groups remain committed to preventing it going ahead.