It's no exaggeration to say that modern Velenje in large part owes its existence to its coal mine, which has been continually operating since the 19th century and still produces some four million tons of coal annually - which is primarily used at the nearby Šoštanj power plant to supply around 1/3 of Slovenia's energy needs. Sitting atop one of the world's thickest seams of coal, which is up to 165m thick, the company has one of the most technologically advanced coal mining operations in the world and plans to continue output for another four decades, although it could theoretically continue to operate for even longer without exhausting the known reserves. The coal itself is known as lignite, or soft brown coal, which is a relatively young form of the substance, and as such possesses a much lower energy density than black coal. Its got a high moisture content and distinctive peat-like odour that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has travelled extensively in Scotland or Ireland.
As one of the largest employers in the region, with a current workforce of some 2600, the Velenje mine and it subsidiaries take their social and environmental responsibilities very seriously. In addition rehabilitating the city's lakes, the company is actively involved in the promotion of sports and education, both amongst its employees and the community as a whole. Velenje is also home to the only mining school in all of Slovenia, and the graduation ceremony for newly minted miners is one of the most important events on the calendar, taking place at the city stadium on the 3rd of July every year. Despite the bright and still relatively long future that Velenje's mine has in front of it, the company has already diversified its business into many different areas, including tourism, catering and hospitality.