Around 1,000 miners and workers at Bulgaria’s largest coal-fired power plant marched through the streets of Sofia on Wednesday to protect their jobs and call on the government to support the mining industry, Agerpres reports.
The protesters demanded a guarantee from the Sofia cabinet that it would not rush to close mines and power plants at the Maritsa East lignite complex in southern Bulgaria, despite European Union plans to decarbonize the bloc’s economy by 2050.
“It has to be green and clean energy, but it takes time for investments to be made first,” said Spaska Ruskova, 58, who works for a company that makes mining equipment. “It will probably happen for our grandchildren, but it can’t happen now because hundreds of families will lose their jobs and pay higher electricity bills,” Spaska Ruskova added.
Bulgaria must set a date by which it will phase out coal-fired electricity production if it is to qualify for funding from the European Recovery Mechanism and meet the bloc’s climate targets.
The interim government in Sofia said it would present its plans for the European recovery fund on Friday. The Sofia cabinet said it would defend the target of closing coal-fired power plants in 2038 or 2040, roughly in line with miners’ demands.
Environmental NGO Greenpeace has called for the most polluting thermal power plants to be closed by 2030 and urged Bulgaria to focus on renewable energy and providing new jobs in mining regions.
Instead, protesters argue that an earlier closure of coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for 40% of Bulgaria’s electricity production, would lead to problems in electricity supply and higher bills.
About 10,000 people work at the Maritsa East lignite complex in southern Bulgaria, whose lignite deposits are blamed for poor air quality and respiratory illnesses.
Unions say the complex provides a livelihood for more than 100,000 people in the European Union’s poorest country and have vowed to continue to put pressure on the government that will emerge after the general election on 14 November.
Edited for English