Overview: The Polish Shale Gas Mining Sector
Poland is considered to be one of the European countries with the largest potential of recoverable shale gas deposits; estimates range between 1400 – 3000 billion cubic meters. The process of Polish shale gas deposit exploration has begun, with leading U.S. and international oil and gas company participation. The Ministry of Environmental Protection has already issued over 90 concessions for shale gas exploration, including 50 for U.S. companies (Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Marathon Oil, EurEnergy, and Conoco Phillips). Poland is facing a boom in shale gas exploration and production drilling operations, and appropriate regulations should be undertaken in order to facilitate the flow of necessary equipment and qualified engineering staff from abroad and U.S.
The Legal Framework for Poland’s Mining Professionals
Poland's current legal framework regime for oil and gas exploration is generally favorable. The Geological and Mining Law of 1994 with further amendments, describes conditions for conducting the activities of exploration, operation, production and storage of natural resources in Poland, including oil and gas, and shale gas in specific. The law can be viewed at http://www.mos.gov.pl/g2/big/2009_06/5d34ad61445fce2a93d0c4e5906e4aa6.pdf.
Article 68 of the Geological and Mining Law addresses the regulation of mining professions and the requisite qualifications for these professions. The law states that mining plant operations (including oil and gas) may be conducted only under the management and supervision of personnel possessing proper qualifications. The Minister of Economy is responsible for: 1) the specification of general and professional qualifications required for these personnel; 2) the creation of a list of positions for mining plants which are to be held by persons with professional qualifications, and 3) definitions for these types of qualifications. These issues are regulated by the Minister of Economy Ordinance of 2002 on Mining Profession Qualifications (Journal of Laws no 84, position 755).
According to above law, managerial positions are defined as “the manager of the mining plant and managers of the particular mining plant sections”. The supervisory positions include supervisors at the high, medium and low levels of plant operations. The general qualifications specified by the law that refers to all mining plants are as follows: written and spoken knowledge of Polish language, knowledge of subject type of mining plant operations to the extent necessary to perform managerial or supervisory duties. The general professional qualification requirements for all mining plants include: graduation from an adequate technical school verified by a diploma from the school and the completion of professional training in mining plant operation according to the duration and technical requirements specified for that particular position.
The Polish Mining Profession: Definitions and Qualification Criteria
The list of managerial and supervision professions in the oil and gas exploration and production (including shale gas) that are currently regulated in Poland includes: shot firer, explosive materials disposer, drilling rig operator, operator of cement aggregates and equipment for oil and gas exploitation intensification, and welder. The special qualification requirements that refer to the above professions are as follows: graduation from a school specific to skills required and verified by a graduation diploma, adequate work experience, special training course completion, and age and health condition requirements.
The qualifications of operation managers and supervisors in the underground mining plants (including shale gas) are ascertained by the President of the State Mining Authority (WUG). In order to perform duties of operation manager or supervisor, the person must possess a special certificate issued by WUG that ascertains his or her qualifications for this position. The recipient of this certification must pass an oral exam in Polish in front of the special commission. In order to be qualified for the exam, the applicant must apply to WUG, complete the required forms and attach documentation attesting to his or her educational and professional experience. U.S. engineering personnel who would like to work in Polish mining operations should follow this procedure, pass the exam in Polish and receive a WUG certificate. Qualifications of foreign mining operation specialists (except EU) are not acknowledged in Poland.