Jan Bondaruk
Deputy Director for Environmental Engineering
Central Mining Institute (GIG)

10 January 2020

The Central Mining Institute (GIG) is a leading research institute made up of four main branches: mining and geoengineering, environmental engineering, clean coal technology and environmental radioactivity. The technologies they work on are available worldwide, such as The Dust Air Personal Controler, m which measures air quality and warns against smog hazards.

The Central Mining Institute has an impressive history dating back to 1945 – how would you describe your activity and main mission during today’s changing times?

Our structure is honed to mirror the needs of the market. One of our branches is dedicated to mining, geology and anything related to effective and safe extraction; the second branch is environmental engineering, and the two competencies complement each other according to our clients’ needs. By change you must be referring to the energy transition that everyone is going through, which is where our environmental engineering branch can have a palpable impact, though our vision of energy transition as an opportunity – not a cost. 

 

This is not ivory tower style research, it is focused on solving real-life problems and a great example is the successful revitalization of post-industrial and post-mining areas. 

 

Could you give us a few examples of projects you are working on and their industrial applicability?

One example is project RECOVERY, which focuses on land rehabilitation and ecological restoration of coal mining-affected areas, aiming to accelerate the recovery of degraded and transformed ecosystems to a good ecosystem status. The overall concept of underpinning RECOVERY is that there is almost no information available on the environmental and social cost-effectiveness of these actions.

 

Within the private sector, some far-sighted mining companies are making preliminary moves, but much remains to be done to make ecological restoration a mainstream business endeavour, as proponents and practitioners have resisted exploring cost-benefit analyses in the past, for lack of know-how, reliable data and implementable solutions.

 

Our imagination is the only barrier in terms of how post-mining areas can be transformed. Poland has not been handling it very well however, the standard approach is to destroy everything, and at the institute, we look for ways to have what we call “smart closure” instead. Mines are located in the centers of many Polish cities, making it crucial to close them down in a properly planned manner.

We can reuse geothermal water, methane as an energy source, and turn the locations into logistics centers, waste storage or green energy facilities. Likewise mine water needs to fulfill European directives and our experts can help advise on safe water management, with the use of water cleaning technologies and correct pumping systems. Ultimately we should extract post-mining assets and maximize the resources at hand. 

Poland has some of the most polluted cities in Europe – moving away from the mines themselves and into countering smog, are there any solutions you are working on to address this?

Ensuring high air quality levels is an old priority of the mining industry, but indeed it has now become a general population concern. We developed award-winning equipment to address this, known as The Dust Air Personal Controler, which  the basic function is to share and expand information about the environment, and particularly to provide local communities and administration with access to full and diverse information concerning smog hazards.

 

The Dust Air Personal Controler is now a first of its kind prototype and we are looking for partners that can commercialize it widely.

 

Moreover, we widely support local and regional authorities through measurement campaigns. We use drones and electric cars for gathering data award-winning and then produces smoke maps to show areas with high emission concentrations where public intervention is most needed. r 

It sounds like your technologies can be used by everyone, from individual to governments – what is your approach, both in Poland and internationally, to collaborate and build partnerships?

Our approach to international collaboration can be divided into three streams. Firstly we always look to combine forces with other R&D institutes and take advantage of available funding, on the backbone of concrete improvements and industrial applicability.

Secondly, we promote our products such as The Dust Air Personal Controler directly and participate in networks to communicate and find end users for our solutions. For instance last year we became a member of SPIRE, and organization of industry and researchers united in finding low emission solutions. We are also part of CO2GeoNet for the promotion of CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) technology.

And thirdly, we partner up with the Polish mining industry to foster innovation together and sell products to end-users worldwide. One notable collaboration is with JSW, with whom we are intensively collaborating in the field of effective drainage methods of methane and utilization of ventilation methane as well as the revitalization of post-mining areas as Krupiński mine. Many R&D services and solutions are being promoted across Europe, Africa, India, and Vietnam. 

Do you believe Poland will manage to walk a healthy path on the way to reducing coal dependency and rethinking its mining industry?

A just transition rests at the heart of this conversation and I would say I am cautiously optimistic. The problems are not technical or organizational, but rather to do with people’s mentality.

 

People are afraid of change. Will they become truly open-minded about welcoming change in the near future? Time will tell – but Poland needs to move with the times and the institute wishes to enthusiastically support real change. 

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