Once key to the economy, Bosnia’s coal mines risk closing


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Fourth-generation miner Adis Genga said he and his colleagues would join a general strike in Bosnian coal mines if miners were forced to quit their jobs under unfavorable conditions knowing their strike days were numbered.

Within a decade, 37-year-old Genga and other workers at the Abid Lolic mine in central Bosnia will be out of work.

“We will fight hard to prevent layoffs and severance pay, our brothers and cousins ​​have become disabled while doing their jobs and cannot do anything with severance pay,” Genga said.

As Bosnia prepares to gradually switch from coal to renewable energy sources, the miners, once a trademark of the coal-rich former Yugoslav Republic, one of them featured on the banknote of the national currency, face an uncertain future.

Bosnia and its other Western Balkan neighbors who are all keen to join the European Union have pledged to cut CO2 emissions and shut down coal mines and coal-fired power plants by 2050 like the rest of Europe.

In accordance with this plan, the power company Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH), owned by the government of the Bosnian-Croat Autonomous Federation of Bosnia, plans to restructure its seven indebted coal mines and reduce the number of employees to 5,200 from 7,200. current over the next three. years.

Miners’ unions have announced a general strike and subsequent protests unless their demands for socially sensitive restructuring have been met.

The government and EPBiH say that most of the dismissed workforce are administrative employees who will be offered pre-qualifications. Some will be transferred to the new EPBiH companies and others will offer severance pay with all due benefits paid.

Aerial view of the Abid Lolic coal mine in Nova Bila, Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 12, 2021. Photo taken on May 12, 2021. Photo taken with a drone. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic

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EPBiH chief executive Admir Andelija said the company allocated 125 million Bosnian mark ($ 77.6 million) to cover outstanding debt from the mines to pension funds to enable the departure retired 419 employees this year.

FACING Financial Collapse?

Even though the government says no miner will lose their jobs in the process, thousands of families traditionally employed in the mining industry fear they will remain unemployed as the country has yet to develop alternative employment programs.

The Abid Lolic mine, which is a vital lifeline for 15,000 residents of the Bila Valley, will be among the first to close in 10 years due to dwindling coal reserves and a mining system at obsolete room and pillar that limits its production and modernization, Andelija said.

“The closure would mean the total financial collapse of the valley, which depends entirely on this mine,” said Adis Kasumovic, mine manager.

Genga, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked in the mine, said he would not allow his son to carry on the family tradition: “These are times of insecurity “.

Federation Energy Minister Nermin Dzindic said the priority was to secure energy supplies in a sustainable manner, warning that otherwise the mines would risk bankruptcy due to their 920 million mark debt owed to them. public funds, suppliers and EPBiH.

“The transition has to be completed sooner or later, better sooner because it hurts less,” Dzindic said.

($ 1 = 1,611 Bosnian mark)

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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