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Knurów mine is 120 years old

Mass at the Church of St. Cyril and Methodius, a prayer for the Knurów mine workers, the dedication of a statue of St. Barbara, and a memorial tribute to workers who lost their lives at the mine - these were the highlights of the 120th anniversary celebration of the Knurów mine, which took place on Sunday, 11 June.

photos: Stefan Rusinowski

The ceremony was attended by, among others, Marek Wesoły Secretary of State and Government Representative for the Transformation of Energy Companies and Coal Mining, Piotr Pyzik Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of State Assets, and Jarosław Wieczorek Silesian Voivode. The Management Board of Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa was represented by President Tomasz Cudny. MPs from the Silesian region were also present. The guests viewed an exhibition on the history of the mine in the pithead. The anniversary celebration was crowned by the mine's orchestra.


The beginnings of the mine

Tracing the history of the Knurów mine you trace the history of Silesia from the beginning of the 20th century. The mine was the focus of economic, political and social life, with all the complexities peculiar to the region. The mine was established at a time when there was no Polish state on the maps of Europe. The historical beginning of the Knurów mine is considered to be 15 June 1903, the day the drilling of Shaft I began. The main initiator of the construction of the mine was Gustav von Velsen, director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Berlin. From the initial model of the mine's infrastructure developed in the early 20th century, many elements are still relevant. Less than six months later, on 19 December 1903, the drilling of Shaft II (now Paweł) began, which, after many modernizations, is still the mine's modern facility.


Mine as an engine of development

In 1904, work began on the construction of the Knurów-Paruszowiec and Knurów-Rzędówka railway lines. Investments in rail routes were necessary as Knurów was a village without connecting routes. At the same time, construction of the first workers' settlement began. This was the beginning of housing construction for miners. In 1909 the construction of the second and third workers' estates began. After 6 years, 96 buildings with 579 apartments were ready. The construction of the first workers' estate in Knurów began 5 years earlier than construction of the Nikiszowiec estate in Katowice, which is regarded as a model example of a mining estate built at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1919, construction of a fourth workers' estate began. Within a dozen years or so, thanks to the mine, the village of Knurów had a modern hospital, vocational education and an imposing mine management building.

The development of technical and social infrastructure was impressive, but the standard of living of mining families did not improve. In 1912, the first strike broke out at the Knurów mine.


Polish Knurów

After three uprisings and a plebiscite, Knurów found itself within the borders of the Second Republic of Poland. At the end of June 1922, the Prussian administration handed the mine over to Polish management. In the mine's chamber of traditions there is a copy of the document from the naming of the mine shafts with new names. The ceremony, attended by Wojciech Korfanty, took place on 22 September 1922. Shaft "I" ("von Velsen I") was named Piotr, shaft "II" ("von Velsen II") was named Paweł. The drowned shaft "III" ceased to exist, and shaft "IV" was named Foch, in honor of French Marshal Frederick Foch, who was an implacable enemy of Germany and a great friend of the Poles. The mine was placed within the structures of the Polish-French company Skarboferm.

Early in the mine's history, it became apparent that much of the coal mined had coking properties. A coking plant connected to the mine by a conveyor belt was built nearby. The coking plant, systematically expanded over several years, in 1918 had four batteries. The heating coke was used to heat Knurów’s public buildings. In 1927, an ammonia plant was built. The mine, coking plant and ammonia plant formed a local coal and coke group. Thanks to this, the mine survived even the most difficult time of the economic crisis between the wars, although for many years coal mining was loss-making. Since Skarboferm, which owned the Knurów plant, was profitable, the mine avoided closure despite the fact that the crisis continued to deepen and it was necessary to lay off employees. In 1924, the mine employed 3,790 people, and ten years later, 1,033.


Not just coal

After the outbreak of World War II and the takeover of the mines by the Germans, the time of an economy geared to the occupiers’ war needs began. Prisoners of war and forced laborers were employed. The mine and the neighboring plants became part of the Hermann Göring concern. The Germans invested in modernizing the mine, the coking plant and the ammonia plant. Gas from the coke plant was used as fuel for automobiles, and ammonia was needed to make explosives, among other things.

On 26 January 1945, the Red Army entered Knurów. The retreating Germans damaged the power grid. A group of 73 miners prevented the mine from flooding. As a result, mining began as early as January 1945. In the first months after the war, the daily output did not exceed 1,300 tons of coal, while in 1948 the mine produced more than one million tons of coal.

After the Red Army entered, also the coking plant resumed work. Buildings in Knurów were connected to the gas network. When the gas compressor station for the Knurów, Dębieńsko and Makoszowy coke plants was established in 1947, coke oven gas was piped outside Silesia, including to Warsaw. In 1980, the Knurów Coking Plant became part of Kombinat Koksochemiczny Zabrze. In 2002, the Knurów Coke Plant was decommissioned.


Recent history

After 1989, when mining was made an anti-inflation anchor, times of reducing its role quickly followed. One of the stages was the merging of mines. When Kompania Węglowa was established, it included, among others, the Knurów and Szczygłowice mines. After a few years, they were merged. The Knurów-Szczygłowice mine was formed. The assets of both mines were coal deposits with coking properties. The mine was bought from Kompania Węglowa by Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa and on 1 August 2014 KWK Knurów-Szczygłowice became part of JSW's organizational structure. Investments have begun, among other things, to increase the share of good-quality coking coal in the overall output. The Knurów Section has become an important element of JSW Group's policy of dynamic development.

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