Deep beneath the earth’s surface in the southeastern region of Ukraine, a team of miners toil around the clock, extracting coal to fuel the country’s war effort and provide civilians with heat and light.
Following a devastating six-month campaign by Russia’s military to destroy Ukraine’s power stations and infrastructure, coal has become central to meeting the country’s energy needs.
The chief engineer of a mining company in Dnipropetrovsk province stressed the importance of coal, noting that it was essential for keeping the country going.
The miners travel down into the mine via elevators and operate heavy machinery to extract the coal, which is then transported to the surface. Despite the grueling nature of their work, the miners recognize its importance and take pride in contributing to their country’s energy independence.
With the ongoing conflict with Russia and attacks on Ukraine’s nuclear, thermal, and other power stations, the country’s energy supply remains unstable.
Negotiations to demilitarize the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is the largest nuclear energy facility in Europe, have stalled. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has refused to legitimize Russian control of the plant.
Shelling and missile attacks have damaged the plant and the power lines needed to operate cooling equipment at Zaporizhzhia and Ukraine’s other nuclear plants.
To make matters worse, the Ukrainian government’s plan to reduce the country’s reliance on coal-fired power stations has been disrupted by the conflict, with coal becoming a vital source of energy.
Despite the challenges, the coal miners remain optimistic and dedicated to their work. While they cannot fully compensate for the loss of energy from nuclear power plants, they recognize the importance of every megawatt they help generate.
For them, work is a distraction from the conflict outside the mine, and they take pride in their contribution to their country’s survival.
Many of the miners have been displaced from their homes due to the conflict, with nearly 150 workers from other coal-producing regions joining the team in Dnipropetrovsk.
Yurii, who worked as a coal miner in Vuhledar for 20 years, had to leave due to the war. “Life begins from scratch,” he said, a sentiment shared by many in the region.
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