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One year passes since the disaster

Ceremonies for the first anniversary of the disaster, in which nine miners died and seven are still being sought, have ended at the Pniówek mine. It was one of the most dramatic days in the history of Polish mining.

photo: Dawid Lach

A mass for the intention of the deceased and missing miners, as well as their families, was held in the mine's communal hall. The joint prayer was led by rev. Piotr Kuczera of the Parish of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Pawłowice. After the low-key Mass, flowers were laid and candles were lit in front of the statue of St. Barbara, and then the widows officially handed over a painting with the image of the patron saint of miners brought from the Vatican. It was hung in the lobby of the administration building. The modest ceremonies commemorating the mining disaster were attended, among others, by the miners’ families and mine rescue workers, the injured, as well as the mine's authorities, representatives of trade unions and the management of Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa.

The Pniówek mine disaster occurred on 20 April 2022 in longwall N-6, 1,000 meters underground, where a quarter past midnight a methane explosion occurred. There were 42 workers in the danger zone. During the operation, 39 workers managed to be evacuated. After 3:00 a.m., a second methane explosion occurred. Seven workers, including a rescue squad, remained in the affected area. A day later, there was another methane explosion. The manager of the rescue operation decided to temporarily seal off the N-6 longwall area with isolation stoppings.  The action was discontinued on 2 May. Nine miners lost their lives as a result of the methane explosions, and seven are still believed to be missing.

Mine rescuers in the N-6 longwall area returned in February 2023. In accordance with the action plan, they narrowed the size of the sealed off region up to the mining pits located closer to longwall N-6 by building two lightweight chemical foam-based insulation stoppings. The work on narrowing the sealed-off area of longwall N-6 and the penetration of the unsealed N-6 ramp ended the first stage of the search operation.

Further work carried out by rescue workers as a preventive measure consisted of constructing new explosion-proof stoppings, clearing the sealed off mining pits (among others, a 100-meter-long inundated area was removed), and dismantling and taking out old equipment and machinery, including coal haulage equipment, from the roadways.

Currently, work in the N-6 longwall area is focused on restoring the functionality of the N-6 ramp, where the coal haulage conveyors have been rebuilt, and the components have been transported and the roadheader has been assembled for miners to perform dinting. All of this work is necessary to begin excavating a 350-meter roadway parallel to the N-6 longwall, which will allow rescue workers to safely reach the missing miners. According to the plan, roadway drilling is scheduled to begin in June and be completed in August. In early September, already as part of the rescue operation, rescuers will attempt to penetrate the places where the missing miners should be.

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