June 18, 2020 / 11:12 AM / 23 days ago

Polish coal producer defends miners facing public ire over the coronavirus

WARSAW, June 18 (Reuters) - Poland’s JSW, the European Union’s biggest coking coal producer, has launched a campaign to defend miners who it says have faced public abuse and unfair blame on social media over a rise in coronavirus infections.

Infections among miners have been disproportionately high, according to Health Ministry figures, accounting for about half of the daily rise in cases in past weeks, while miners account for almost 20% of Poland’s total reported coronavirus cases.

It has prompted some people on social media to blame miners and those in the country’s southern coal mining region for not taking enough precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.

JSW’s spokesman said the campaign called “Stop hate! Don’t blacken the coal miner!” aimed to defend the mineworkers, as well as their families and local communities.

It said the programme of support would include banners erected on streets in Jastrzebie-Zdroj, the town where JSW has its headquarters, as well as messages posted on the internet.

“The campaign is our response to the negative emotions which came up during the coronavirus pandemic,” JSW said in a statement, adding “cases of discrimination and aggression have appeared on the streets of Polish cities” as well as the internet.

The government has reduced operations to minimum at a dozen coal mines temporarily to prevent the virus spreading further.

JSW and other mining companies have reported about 6,000 cases, while Poland’s national total stands at more than 31,000 cases. Poland reported 314 new cases on Thursday, 88 of which were in the coal mining region.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Edmund Blair

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