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ABSTRACT: In the paper authors show how geologists and environmentalists can support local authorities in management of post-industrial areas. Problems are related to transformation and revitalization of areas where coal mining activity was ceased. The analysis of the present state of the natural environment and proposals of land development of the former mining area of the Sosnowiec coal mine closed in 1998 are described in the paper. Geological, hydrogeological, mining and geotechnical data were studied.
INTRODUCTION: Shallow lying productive coal formation in the north-eastern part of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (south Poland) became conducive to intensive development of coal mining in the 19th century. Before long, railway lines, steel works and other industrial plants were set up extremely changing the landscape. The exploitation of shallow coal beds as well as zinc and lead ores let existing towns and villages develop extensively forming the large Silesian agglomeration.
The economic development of the Silesian region entirely depended on the exploitation of coal, but on the other hand the mining activity was concentrated in some places. Therefore the urban development was spatially limited in extension. That was why the vast area around the centres remained economically undisturbed till to the end of the 20th century.
The large industrial conurbation was similar for various reasons to the Ruhra Coalfield. In the 20th century industrial facilities such as coal mines and steel works became unquestioned elements of the agglomerationís landscape. However, in west Europe coal mines were closed in the 1980ís. In Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and Germany post-mining areas were brought into cultivation at a great cost and expenditure of work replacing the view of industrial objects into shopping centres or leisure facilities e.g. Oberhausen in former Ruhra coalfield.
In Poland economic and political transformations which took place on the turn of 1980ís and 1990ís caused the change of macroeconomic conditions of coal exploitation. The new rules of market economy and rigorous criteria of recoverable reserves, decrease in economic demand as well as comparatively small prices of coal resulted in falling of coal output i.e. from 150 m tones per year in 1990 to 100 m tones in 2003. The elaborated plan of coal mining transformation in Poland assumes that by the year 2020 the coal output diminution will have reached 80 mln tones per year and gradually the employment will have been reduced to 55,000 workers (Cabala, Cmiel & Idziak in press).
Finally, during the economic restructure 23 coal mines were closed. Procedure of mining activity cessation lasted for couple of years and post-mining areas have become the property of local authorities and they could be offered to investors as interesting in consideration of further development and economic activation of outskirts of towns. Economic conditions, the high cost of mining activity, low prices of coal as well as planned in advanced diminishing of production capacity of Polish mining contributed to closing the coal mines, which performed in highly urban areas of towns such as Sosnowiec, Katowice, Bytom, Gliwice. In consequence the new problem connected with elaborating of new rules according to revitalization of post-mining areas and land development soon appeared.