Bulgaria capitals

Bulgarian miners prepare for closure

  • AFP, STARA ZAGORA, Bulgaria

Nikolay Dinev, 34, worked as a coal miner for 12 years, but now faces an uncertain future as an EU-wide exit from coal is discussed at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“It will be a disaster … The closure is inevitable,” Dinev told Agence France-Presse on the outskirts of the Maritsa Est complex in central Bulgaria.

Bulgaria – which joined the EU in 2007 but remains one of the poorest and most coal-dependent states in the bloc – had long refrained from setting a deadline to end power generation from coal.

Photo: AFP

However, the Bulgarian government said last month that it would propose 2038 or 2040 as possible end dates as part of its commitments under the Europe Green Agreement.

Miners’ unions demonstrated in the capital, Sofia, calling on the government to save the sector, which employs around 30,000 people.

Maritsa East employs 12,000 and supplies more than a third of Bulgaria’s electricity.

Mining has for decades been the main source of income in the region. The local deposits – discovered by a French geologist in the 19th century and later developed by Soviet engineers – still contain 1.5 billion tonnes of coal, according to data from the Bulgarian Ministry of Energy.

The government has offered to set up a state-owned enterprise to convert mining areas into industrial parks, giving jobs to former workers, but Dinev wishes he could “postpone the process. [of closing the mines] 30 years ”until retirement.

“I left the army because I have 500 leva [US$296] per month, and there they offered me double, ”he said, adding that this father had worked in the mines for 31 years, when his childhood home had been swallowed up by their extension.

Dinev now earns 1,500 leva per month for 12 hours per day repairing equipment – the average salary in the poorest country in the EU – which is “not bad for the region”, he said. declared.

He saved enough to build a house for his family, where they grow fruits and vegetables, and raise chickens and rabbits.

The planned closure is likely to affect Bulgaria as a whole.

“It’s not just the mine workers, but everyone who depends on it. My auto mechanic is also anxious, ”said Dinev.

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