Down in a hole: Bosnia miners fear green revolution

(18 Nov 2021) For years, life in Bosnia’s Breza revolved around its coal mine, but the global shift from fossil fuels to renewables threatens the industry that was once the pride of communist Yugoslavia.

Armel Jekalovic and other miners, once hailed as local heroes who brought home steady incomes, now fear theirs could be the last generation to earn a living from Bosnia’s coalfields.

“This situation around the energy transition worries us,” says Jekalovic, 36, who oversees the operations at the mine northwest of Sarajevo.

“Production is constantly decreasing, as are the number of employees. People don’t feel safe and are looking for an alternative.”

The recent COP26 agreement in Glasgow saw nations agree a pledge to “phase down” the use of coal, one of the world’s leading sources of pollution.

Experts anticipate that none of Bosnia’s remaining 11 coal mines will remain operational in the coming decades as eco pressure grows and the country seeks to clean up as it courts EU membership.

The Breza mine employs 1,100 people, supporting more than 70% of the 14,000 inhabitants living in this area of central Bosnia, according to Jekalovic.

But the spectre of green reforms is not the only challenge facing the industry’s workforce.

Miners often struggle to move on and retire due to their employers’ years-long failure to contribute to their pensions.

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, 18 Nov 2021: Down in a hole: Bosnia miners fear green revolution