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Monday: Bílina open pit excursion
Former name of the Bílina open pit was Velkodůl Maxim Gorkij. Today the terrain covers about 40 square km. The mine is located northwest from the old town of Bílina, reaching towards the edges of Duchcov and Mariánská Radčice. Several former villages, such as Radoves or Libkovice, disappeared because of mining. We drove from Duchcov to the huge modernistic complex of Ledvice power plant, got in the Mercedes van of Severočeské doly and, accompanied by the driver and two kind employees of the SD company, set off towards the deepest spot in the Czech Republic. That is to say, the bottom of the mine lies almost on sea level.
The annual extraction from this mine comprises approximately 10 million tons of brown coal with about 53 million cubic meters of removed overburden. Currently, mining activity in Bílina is carried out at one site on the western side of the pit. All overburden masses are stored in internal dump until the closure of Bílina mining site (planned for 2035 or later). The "correction of the mining limits" is, according to our guides, entirely conflict-free, since there aren't any "human habitations" in the area where the mine is suppose to expand. Contracts were already signed with municipalities in the respective territories, which enable to "break" the limits of Bílina Mine. This would extend the life of the mine until 2050 - 2055. On Wednesday, the representatives of the company expect the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the Minister of Industry Jan Mládek to discuss these issues.
Extracted coal from the Bílina Mine, depending on its quality, is treated by sorting, crushing and separation at Ledvice Coal Processing Plant, to be ready for sale as coal products, graded pulverized coal and fuel mixtures, intended for a wide range of customers from the industry and energetics sector, and for "communal consumption". The owner of Ledvice Power plant and Bílina Mine is the company ČEZ.
Overburden mining is performed by the TC3 technological unit, consisting of the giant K10 000 bucket-wheel excavator, 2200 mm wide belt conveyors and the ZP10 000 spreader, a further technological unit, TC2 is formed by bucket-wheel excavators KU 800, K 2000 and KK 1300, overland belt conveyors with belt widths from 1800 mm to 2000 mm and ZPD 8000, ZP 5500, ZP 6600 and ZPDH 6300 spreaders. For the extraction of overburden above the coal seam top, and for coal mining, excavators KU 300S and K 650 are deployed as unit TC1. Coal extracted from the opencast mine is transported to the processing plant by long-distance conveyors, with belt widths 1200 mm and 1600 mm. Excavated overburden is transported by an overland conveyor with belt width 1600 mm to the internal dump to the spreaders ZP 2500 and ZP 3500. Coal products are prepared in accordance with the quality requirements of customers to the extent specified in the Coal Catalogue. Expedition of coal is provided for a wide range of customers by belt conveyors, rail and road transportation.
The volume of the extraction and transportation of the matter seems beyond human scale. 200 meter deep valley several km long was digged out and the "overburden" transferred to the southern edge, where Radovesice and other two villages used to be situated on the slope of the Central Bohemian Uplands. In the course of the last 15 years, a fully artificial landscape was constructed there. We have been standing on the place where a rather conceptual act of the miners took place in 1981. The Radovesice church was left standing deep down in the mine and covered by means of belt conveyors with sand, stones and soil from a 10-km distance.