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Poland's premier Ewa Kopacz talks with miners protesting plan to close 4 mines

WARSAW, Poland – Hundreds of angry coal miners in southern Poland staged an underground strike Monday to protest a plan to close four mines that the government says are losing money.

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz travelled to the area to sit down and talk with the protesting miners. Earlier negotiations broke down Sunday.

The government last week announced a plan to close the mines and lay off or transfer the 12,000 employees in order to save the state-owned Coal Company that also has 10 other mines.

Those laid off are being offered two years of severance pay, or paid leave if they are close to retirement.

Some 1,200 miners participated in the strike Monday. They insist the collieries are profitable and have large coal deposits, and are demanding a major restructuring of the entire sector that provides Poland with a key energy and heat source.

Local governors also protested the closures, saying the mines were the main employers in their areas that are still trying to come out of depression after a previous wave of massive layoffs in the early 2000s.

Some 200 mine employees and miners’ wives also travelled to Warsaw to protest the closing of jobs. They representatives met with First Lady Anna Komorowska.

The government said that in 2014 the four mines jointly brought losses amounting to some 821 million zlotys ($230 million.)