p>The Eastern shaft in the Handlová mine, the scene of the August 10 catastrophe as well as a rich source of Slovakia’s best-quality brown coal, belongs among the most dangerous mines in the country because it is literally full of methane, a very explosive gas. The mine is equipped with sensors to monitor the concentration of methane in the air and whenever the concentration rises to an explosive level, the electrical installation in the whole mine is switched off and miners are signalled to leave, the director of the Slovak Mining Chamber, Fedor Boroška, told the Sme daily.
Coal extracted from mines in the Upper Nitra region is also 10 times younger than the hard black coal in the Ostrava region, which means that it is considerably less stable and poses a higher risk of rockslides. This is what happened in Nováky where four miners died in 2006, said geologist Martin Šuran, as reported by Sme.
Coal extraction at Handlová ceased in 1990 and the mine was closed down by a government decision which, according to HNB general director Peter Čičmanec, was made for economic reasons rather than safety concerns. Coal mining was restarted in 2003, based on a decision of the Slovak government made in 1993. The state has been supporting mining as a source of jobs in this relatively poor region of the country.
Coal mining companies received subventions worth more than €3.2 million from the state budget in 2008 and the privately-owned HNB company received almost €500,000 of that sum. The state also guarantees demand for coal extracted from Slovak mines. For instance, Slovenské Elektrárne is obliged to buy coal for its power plant in Nováky, the only one fired with brown coal, exclusively from domestic sources, Sme reported.
17. Aug 2009 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff