NWR’s wholly-owned Czech subsidiary, OKD a.s., has announced its intention to explore the coal and gas resource in the area of Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. According to OKD CEO Klaus-Dieter Beck, exploration is essential to any responsible discussion of the future of Frenštát Mine.
Available data on the Frenštát resource is 30 years old, so any meaningful discussions on the matter require up-to-date information. “It is our responsibility towards our shareholders, who are financing the expensive preservation of the mine, as well as towards the state, which is the owner of the deposit,” said Beck. Any exploration would not impact the lives of local residents, or the landscape and environment of the Beskydy Mountains, he added.
The area around Frenštát pod Radhoštěm, a town 40km south of Ostrava, has one of the most significant hard coal deposits in the Czech part of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin. It is the last known major deposit of hard coal in Central Europe. In accordance with the Mining Act, OKD administers the approximate 63km2 of mining area associated with the deposit and maintains the mine in its so-called preservation state. This mainly comprises of pumping water from the mine, ventilating the mine, and regularly inspecting and controlling the associated facilities. The purpose of the preservation is to ensure safety and protection of the mine’s structures.
The beginnings of the current mine can be traced to the end of the Second World War, when explorations were conducted. A total of 65 boreholes sunk mainly in the 1960s and 1970s revealed the presence of extensive Karviná-type complex of coal strata.
The authorities decided, in 1976, to establish a mine. Mining works commenced in 1982 with Pit No. 4, and excavation began in 1984. Excavation of Pit No. 5 started a year later and was completed, five years later, to a depth of 1,088m. In 1994 Pit No. 4 was completed at a depth of 903m.
Despite these activities, the mine never opened for coal extraction. In 1995, the mine went into preservation mode and has been in place ever since. Some 40 people are employed on the mine’s preservation, and the annual cost is CZK 60 million.
OKD, as the state-appointed administrator of the mining area, is required to ensure that the deposit does not deteriorate.
The estimated hard coal resource within the Frenštát mining area is roughly 1.6 billion tonnes. The term “resource” in this connection encompasses the total amount of coal present at the site, regardless of composition, location or exploitability. The gas resource is estimated at 10 billion cubic metres.
What is an exploratory excavation?
For the exploration OKD plans to excavate a gallery measuring approximately one kilometre in length, linking to the already existing mine works, at a depth of roughly 900m. Local residents will not notice the work in any way as it will not be detectable above ground. The exploration requires no new surface structures to be built and no new pits to be excavated.
“We are applying for an exploration permit, not a mining permit. The effects of the exploration on the environment will be nil. As a publicly traded company, we have to take good care of the environment and occupational safety, while also keeping healthy relationships with the towns and municipalities. We will meet all the legal requirements, including the creation of an environmental impact assessment. Speaking of which, this is a unique step as an EIA is not required at all for exploratory work in other countries,” said Beck.
The waste rock, or “tailings”, will be removed to the Paskov Mine spoil heap. It is estimated that the daily load of tailings will take five lorries to shift. These will drive along the town ring road, so they will not affect town traffic.
The start of exploratory works is subject to approval by the District Mining Authority in Ostrava. Prior to filing an application for an exploration permit, OKD wishes to ensure that the exploratory excavation will have no undesirable effects on the environment. That is why OKD has processed the EIA documentation and has, as required by law, applied for statements from the administrators of the Beskydy Conservation Area and other relevant entities.
The future of Frenštát
OKD expects the exploration to take approximately four years, of which the actual underground works will take perhaps two and a half years.
The exploratory excavation is not equivalent to mining. For example, the cross-section of the exploratory gallery will be so small that it will be unsuitable for any mining. OKD is not currently considering mining at the site — the future of the site will be discussed with relevant stakeholders after completion of the exploratory works, when contemporary data will be at hand.
“The parent group NWR is currently investing in excess of EUR 500 million in the opening of a new mine in Poland. It is therefore unrealistic to expect the company to invest in mining at the Frenštát Mine right away. As of now, we don’t even know whether the coal there is coking coal or thermal coal. The exploration conducted during the era of socialism was quite insufficient in terms of providing grounds for the approval of such an extensive project. We are a publicly traded company and as such cannot afford to make a mistake,” concluded Beck.