The history of coal mining

First World War

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the Ostrava region became a strategic area of Austria-Hungary. Production of coal and metal represented an elementary prerequisite for warfare. At the same time, the industry was faced with an insufficient work force as a result of military drafting. Historical records show that immediately after mobilization in August 1914, 37% of technicians, 24% of clerks, 25% of underground miners and 18% of surface workers were drafted into the army from the Ostrava mines. The total employee count was reduced from more than 40,000 to 32,253 (situation by the end of August 1914).

Therefore, a large number of the conscripts returned to the mines eventually, however, they were subject to a military regime. Nevertheless, even then the mining rate was still insufficient throughout the whole war. Hence, in 1915 an 11-hour work shift was permitted, Sunday shifts were permitted as well and the number of women working in mines grew. Mining was extensive, work safety was reduced. Although the lack of a large enough labour force resulted in higher wages, the miners’ earnings were depreciated by the high cost of living and shortage of supplies.

The highest mining production under these circumstances was achieved in 1916: approximately 11,5 million tons. However, this was attained at the expense of extensive short-term measures and so from that point the coal output decreased until the end of the war.

The end of the war found the Ostrava-Karviná mines in a state of complete disintegration. At the same time, there was great social tension manifesting itself in frequent strikes. Following the general strike in January 1918 the local military administration of the mines in effect collapsed.