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Romania miners' strike sparks fear of power shortages

A miners strike in Romania is sparking fears of power cuts
A miners strike in Romania is sparking fears of power cuts AFP/File

Bucharest (AFP)

One of Romania's main electricity plants began shutting down on Thursday due to insufficient coal caused by a miners' strike, operator Transelectrica said, sparking fears of power shortages across the country.

The first of three units of the Rovinari thermal power plant was shut down overnight, and the other two may cease activity later in the day, the company said in a statement.

The shutdown comes in the wake of six days of strikes by miners at the CE Oltenia combine in the south of the country, who are demanding better pay and working conditions, unions said.

Union official Nicu Bunoaica told AFP that CE Oltenia's 7,000 miners were demanding an increase of 1,000 lei (213 euros, $240) in their monthly pay packet. Their average take-home salary currently stands at around 500 euros.

CE Oltenia generates around 30 percent of Romania's electricity needs.

To make up for possible shortages, Bucharest has increased electricity imports in recent days but at prices well above those of local power producers.

Energy Minister Anton Anton is expected to talk to miners and union leaders on Thursday to try and defuse tensions.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said the situation was "very serious."

"We are worried about the situation at CE Oltenia and the country's energy system," she told a cabinet meeting.

"I asked for an urgent report about the coal stockpiles in comparison to last year, a detailed analysis of the miners' situation, their income and working conditions, but also solutions for modernising CE Oltenia," she said.

The prime minister had also consulted "all national security structures".

Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007, has promised Brussels it will gradually close its coal mines and turn to non-polluting sources of energy.

But in recent years, Bucharest has asked to postpone the closures in order to limit lay-offs of miners.

CE Oltenia ran up losses of around one billion lei (213 million euros) in 2018 as coal mining becomes less and less profitable.

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