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UPDATE 2-Czech ministry recommends state aid to delay NWR mine closure
April 1, 2014 / 12:56 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Czech ministry recommends state aid to delay NWR mine closure

* Industry Ministry recommends 1.1 bln crowns in aid

* Finance Ministry opposes any subsidies to miner (adds negative stance of the Finance Ministry, paras 5-7)

PRAGUE, April 1 (Reuters) - The Czech Industry Ministry will recommend to the government that the state help cover the costs of closing New World Resources’ Paskov hard coal mine - on condition that the firm keeps it open until the end of 2016.

Money-losing NWR, looking to slim down its operations and cut costs to return to profitability, announced plans last year to close Paskov at the end of 2014. But a state commission has sought ways to delay the closure by two years to protect jobs.

The Czech Republic’s industrial northeast, where Paskov is located, is already struggling with some of the highest unemployment rates in the central European country. The closure of the mine would affect up to 3,000 workers.

Industry Minister Jan Mladek of the Senior government Social Democratic party (CSSD) said the commission had decided the best solution would be for the government to give 1.1 billion crowns ($55.3 million) to help with severance pay for workers and the mine’s closing costs.

Government officials want to delay the closure so they can first organise requalification training for laid-off workers and attract new investors to a region that has been hit hard by the decline of heavy industry.

The proposal may hit a hurdle in the ruling coalition.

Finance Minister Andrej Babis - leader of the second-strongest party in government, ANO - said he opposed any subsidies to extend mining at the NWR pit.

The cabinet is expected to address the issue later this month.

The state aid deal would need the approval of the European Commission, Mladek said at a news conference after he met NWR and regional government officials in the region.

NWR reported a record 466.1 million euro ($642.4 million) net loss in the fourth quarter due to a big impairment charge related to a sharp fall in coal prices. It is undergoing a major capital review to help cut its debt and interest costs. ($1 = 19.9035 Czech Crowns) ($1 = 0.7256 Euros) (Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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