In Poland, what use will the mines that are closing be tomorrow?


From CO2 storage to energy storage using compressed air or gravity-based systems, scientists and engineers are proposing multiple new uses for coal mining sites, which are gradually closing in Poland, until they are completely closed in 2049, as they explained at the Euroscience Open Forum in Katowice in mid-June. Ecosystem specialists, for their part, are stressing the need to renature often devastated places.

A quarter of a century to achieve this. By 2049, “we will have had to close all the mines,” recalls Marcin Lutyński, professor at the Silesian University of Technology, who spoke in Katowice (Poland), on the occasion of the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF), where around 2,000 scientists from Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, etc. met from 12 to 15 June 2024.

Katowice and its 50,000 students

Katowice, a major coal mining centre, has 172 mine shafts in Upper Silesia out of the 222 in the entire country. “We would not be here talking to you if there had not been coal and heavy industry in the past,” declared the city’s mayor Marcin Krupa at the opening of the ESOF, emphasizing that today, the city is the first to have been awarded the title of “post-industrial region”, that it has 50,000 students and that “its future is in science”.

However, insists Lutyński, a specialist in the circular economy in the extractive industry sector, it is necessary to achieve a “just transition”. For some, including himself, this expression means the development of modern technologies and certainly not simply the closure of mines followed by abandonment of the sites.

Especially since new jobs must be created for former miners (and associated professions) and those who will no longer become miners (see box). Other specialists, with whom the understanding is not always cordial, see an opportunity of a completely different order: that of restoring nature and vast spaces where biodiversity, currently in decline, can multiply. One thing is certain, there is no shortage of ideas.

Especially when their promoters identify everything that has already been practiced across the planet, from the United States to Germany, via Sweden or the United Kingdom. A closed mine, its surface buildings and its shafts, tunnels and excavations, […]

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