A year after the tragedy

The miners who went on an eternal shift were commemorated today in the Zofiówka Section. In the mine pithead, a widow of a miner who was killed from a rock bump last year, Daniel Ozon, JSW President of the Management Board, and Prelate Bernard Czernecki unveiled a plaque dedicated to all victims of mining accidents in the Zofiówka mine in Jastrzębie-Zdrój.

photo: Mateusz Paszek, Dawid Lach

The celebration in the mine pithead gathered many people: apart from miners and management of Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa, there were representatives of central and Voivodship authorities and members of the Parliament present there. Special guests of the solemnities were the families and friends of the victims of the disaster of 5 May 2018, which claimed five miners. A letter from Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was read out by Jadwiga Wiśniewska, Member of the European Parliament, and the commemorative plaque was blessed by Prelate Bernard Czernecki. “Today, we remember that tragic day and our colleagues that are no longer here. We can hardly voice our grief for the loss of our dedicated employees.”, saidDaniel Ozon, JSW President of the Management Board, at the celebration. “But it is even more difficult to describe the pain suffered every day by their families who have lost their fathers, husbands and sons.”

The strongest high energy shock wave in the JSW’s history (2x10J) occurred at the depth of 900 m on 5 May 2018. After counting the evacuated team, it turned out that 7 miners stayed underground. Wide-scale search was commenced immediately. Two of the miners were reached on that same day. Five others were continued to be sought. Mine rescue workers, step by step, moving stone after stone by hand, penetrated the roadways damaged by the rock bump, trying to reach the missing colleagues. Circa 2.5 thousand people took part in the rescue campaign in Zofiówka. The campaign was extremely tedious; it was continued for 11 days in very tough conditions. High air temperature and humidity, methane (even 62%), risk of aftershocks, and additionally water flooding. The rescue workers operating underground in a narrowed roadway faced all threats possible. Despite the commitment of all forces and means, five miners could not be rescued. “This situation shows that the nature teaches us a lesson of humility from time to time but also demonstrates that this job, the work in the mining industry, naturally claims respect for itself. It asks for the right decisions, for us to approach what the earth allows us to mine with great consideration.”, said Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Energy, in Jastrzębie-Zdrój.

Certain conclusions were drawn from that disaster. First of all, broad support was provided to the miners’ families. Compensations were disbursed, the relatives received psychological assistance, and the five widows were employed in the Borynia–Zofiówka–Jastrzębie mine. Furthermore, the functioning of the mine rescue stations was changed by introducing, among others, a four-shift work system and increasing the size of teams. The Central Rescue Warehouse was established in the Zofiówka Section. JSW took also actions related to the implementation of radio communications and a system of identifying and monitoring employees underground. To this end, 170 km of optical fiber cable and 242 km of radiating cable were purchased. “In this difficult and dangerous work of a miner, despite all considerations, it is a human being, their safety and life that is most important. And therefore I would like to thank our employer, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa, for prioritizing employee safety in its activities and provides appropriate means for this purpose.”, said Sławomir Kozłowski, a spokesman for representative JSW trade unions in the Zofiówka Section.