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Coal Use in Ukraine Increases as War with Russia Continues



May 3, 2023 Coal reserves in Ukraine are estimated at 60 billion tons, with 23 billion being proven and probable while 10 billion tons can be extracted for economic uses. According to the country’s mining trade union, an organization that advocates for the rights of employees working in the coal industry, this fuel makes up 95% of its domestic energy resources.

Up until recently, Ukraine was the third biggest producer of coal in Europe. From the time Russia invaded the country, the use of coal has taken on a more significant role as the war rages on given how other energy sources have been targeted by the Russians. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022 in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which started in 2014.

Prior to the war, the government of Ukraine had planned to decrease the nation’s reliance on coal-fired power and instead increase the production of natural gas and nuclear energy.

However, a chief engineer of a mining firm in Dnipropetrovsk stated that this fuel was crucial to meeting the nation’s energy needs, especially after the Kremlin’s military announced its six-month campaign to destroy infrastructure, such as power stations. Thus far, Russia has attacked Ukraine’s thermal, nuclear and other power stations, disrupting electricity service. The chief engineer, Oleksandr (who gave only his first name for security reasons), added that the nation’s energy independence was a priority.

Coal in Ukraine is often sourced from the Donetsk Basin, which is located in the eastern region of the country. Other coal mining regions include the Dnieper brown coal mining basin and the Lviv-Volyn basin, which continues into Poland. The Donetsk Basin holds roughly 95% of Ukraine’s proved coal reserves and can be subdivided between the Donetsk, Lugansk and Dnipropetrovsk.

At the mining sites, elevators ferry the workers underground to the depths of the mines where they operate heavy machinery digging out coal that’s transported above ground.

It doesn’t help that negotiations to demilitarize the nuclear power plant captured by Russian forces last year during the full-scale invasion have reached a stalemate. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is against any proposal that would legitimize Russia’s control of the plant because it is the largest nuclear energy facility in Europe.

Dependence on coal will continue to rise unless the war comes to an end, a move that will greatly impact the country’s CO2 emissions and make it even harder for the country to meet its emissions reduction target.

In 2020, the country’s emissions from the coal mining sector had hit 15 MtCO2e. By 2050, it is expected to emit 14MtCO2e from this sector.

One upside to this increasing reliance on coal as the war drags on is that the many Ukrainians who work in the coal industry will continue to earn their keep while also contributing to helping the country meet its energy needs. This goes to show that despite the negatives associated with coal energy, the fuel does play a major role in ensuring energy supply stability while also providing employment to many people around the world. For example, Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU) employed at least 5,500 people according to 2022 statistics.