How War Devastated Ukraine’s Coal Industry


Miners wait for an elevator to take them underground at the start of their shift in Vuhledar, Ukraine.

Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN

Updated 12:56 PM ET, Sun, February 6, 2022

Miners wait for an elevator to take them underground at the start of their shift in Vuhledar, Ukraine.

Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN

Ukraine was once the third largest coal producer in Europe. But production has dropped dramatically since 2014, when fighting broke out with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donbass region.

In 2013, Ukraine produced 84 million tons of coal. Last year, it had fallen to 29 million.

A large part of Ukrainian mines are in the Donbass and have been seized by pro-Russian forces. And since the fighting began, many of these mines have been damaged or fallen into disrepair, experts say.

“Many mines have been flooded due to water pumps not working to prevent groundwater from entering the tunnels,” said photojournalist Timothy Fadek, who has been in Ukraine since last month covering ongoing tensions. with Russia. “The war cut the electricity, which in turn cut the pumps. The flooding is permanent and irreversibly destructive.”

This destruction had severe environmental consequences, contaminating local water supplies. It also caused tens of thousands of miners to lose their jobs.

These jobs are unlikely to return. At COP26, a climate change summit held in Scotland last year, Ukraine pledged to phase out coal by 2035 and invest in clean energy.

Fadek recently visited a mine in Vuhledar, a town in the Donetsk Basin in eastern Ukraine. It is one of the largest and most developed coal mines in the country.

“I wanted to see the last remnants of a gutted industry struggling to remain economically relevant and see the workers who just want to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads,” Fadek said.

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