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Coal mines in Ukraine could close as fighting continues

World Coal,

As fighting continues between Ukrainian military forces and pro-Russian separatists, coal mines in the country face possible shutdowns, according to DTEK, Ukraine’s largest mining and power group.

Months of hard fighting

The insurgency in the largely Russian-speaking east erupted in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and the West has accused Russia of supporting the insurgency.

Following months of hard fighting, on Monday 23 June, pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Borodai said the separatists would observe a ceasefire for five days. However, attacks on both Ukrainian military forces – and on civilians – were reported as recently as the 22 June.

With the continued fighting, the country’s resources have been threatened repeatedly. DTEK issued a statement a day after the separatists attacked its Komsomolets Donbassa, one of the largest coalmines in Ukraine, detaining the coal mine's top management and confiscating assets, including coalminers' monthly pay, 22 vehicles and office equipment.

Coalminers protest against conflict

More than a thousand of Komsomolets Donbassa coalminers took to the streets of Kirovsky, a city near Donetsk, on Sunday in protest against the attack. They called on the separatists to lay down their arms and start peace talks with the government.

A few days before the Kirovsky march, coalminers from Donetsk, Gorlovka, Enakievo, Snezhnoe and Topaz also took to the streets in protest: almost 10,000 coal miners marched against Ukrainian military operations, which they claim have killed civilians, as well as rebels.

The Independent Union of Donbass Miners, which represents miners in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, also demanded an immediate end to the so-called “anti-terrorist” operation by the Kiev authorities.

Shutdown of coal mines

As tensions remain taught – even following the ceasefire, shots have been heard fired – DTEK said that the effect the conflict was having on coal mines was detrimental to all parties involved.

"The shutdown of strategically important businesses in the region, such as coalmines, is unacceptable," DTEK said in a statement. "This will have a detrimental impact on all participants in the conflict."

The attack on the coalmine came on 21 June – a day after President Petro Poroshenko ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight. The President also warned the separatists that they would be "eliminated" if they did not use the time to put down their guns.

DTEK is the largest producer of coal in Ukraine. The company owns 31 coalmines and 13 coal enrichment plants, producing both thermal coal and metallurgical coal.

DTEK Komsomolets Donbassa  coal mine employs more than 5000 workers. The mine’s target production output is around 4.4 million t of coal in 2014, according to the company's website.

Komsomolets Donbassa produced about 4 million t of coal in 2013, down from 4.5 million t in 2012.

Written by Sam Dodson

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