About that coal in Kosovo

In comments to the post on Kosovo, Alex Harrowell asked the following reasonable question:

“How can you have something that’s both a “mineral resource grab” and an “economic black hole”?”

The short answer: you can, because it’s Kosovo.

Here’s why. There has been no serious investment in those mines since the Yugoslav economy hit the skids in 1986.

A modern coal mine is not a hole in the ground full of guys with picks. It’s a major industrial installation. You have huge drills, borers, grinders, driers, fans, pumps, you name it. A big coal mine uses as much power as a good-sized town. A big modern coal mine uses cutting-edge, state-of-the-art materials technology and software. It’s not guys digging coal any more. It’s guys operating and maintaining big, complicated machines that dig coal. In the United States, the majority of coal miners have four-year college degrees, and need them.
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One last favor

It was one of his last days in office, and president Illiescu decided to pay one last favor to an old friend.

Miron Cosma is hardly known outside of Romania. “King Coal”, as he’s dubbed sometimes, is a dangerous demagogue, a ruthless criminal, and adored by his followers.

Miron Cosma is a leader of miners. In 1990, he led his men into Bucharest to help President Illiescu solve a problem: protesting students. The miners tore through the city like a natural disaster. They pillaged and ransacked the city as if they were a horde of barbarians. Illiescu thanked them for their patriotic help.
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Miners

I’m writing from Bucharest, Romania. The Romanians haven’t shown a lot of interest in what’s happening in Ukraine. Oh, they’re following it, but it doesn’t seem to grab their imagination. Part of this, I think, is because they’re distracted — they have a big election of their own, for Parliament and the Presidency, this weekend. And, too, Romanians consider themselves “part of Europe”, while Ukraine is seen as outside. But whatever the reason, they don’t seem too interested.

Except for one detail.

Apparently Yanukovic and his supporters have been busing thousands of coal miners into the capital. Every Romanian that I’ve talked to has commented on this.

Why? Well, you have to know a little recent Romanian history.

Bucharest, 1991:
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