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Poland scraps mine closure plan opposed by coal unions

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WARSAW, July 28 (Reuters) - Poland's government on Tuesday scrapped a plan to close two mines owned by the country's biggest coal producer PGG, following opposition from trade unions during protracted talks.

Poland's coal industry, already under pressure from climate campaigners and falling demand, has been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis as many miners caught the disease and mining operations were closed.

PGG management had been expected to present the unions with a plan that included closing two of PGG's mines - Ruda and Wujek - which employ a total of 7,700 people, to help the company survive the coronavirus crisis.

But after 5-hours of talks in Katowice, the heart of the Silesia mining region in southern Poland, the government said trade unions had rejected the plan, whose details had been disclosed by sources.

A ministry spokesman said a group of representatives from PGG, trade unions and the government, will work out a new scheme by the end of September.

"It has to be acceptable by all," the spokesman said.

That could mean very difficult negotiations. "The next two months might be the most important for the whole coal mining industry in Poland," trade union leader Dominik Kolorz told Reuters with reference to work on the new plan.

The ministry spokesman denied that the abandoned plan would have cut salaries and was designed to phase out coal in Silesia by 2036, which some of the sources had said it would.

Poland generates almost 80% of its electricity from coal and is the only member of the European Union that has not pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050.

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