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Cover Story | December 2010

Coal Mining in India

Of the 267.2 billion tonnes of Indian coal resources up to a depth of 1,200 m, about 105.7 billion tonne fall under the proved or confirmed category. Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India provides an overview of the coal mining scenario, and talks about the expertise from Germany, a country that leads the world in engineering technology, especially in the mining equipment.


Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel resource in the country. India, currently stands 8th in terms of total world coal resources, whereas it is 4th from the point of view of identified reserves. The coal occurrences in India are mainly distributed along the present day river valleys, ie, Damodar Valley, Sone-Mahanadi Valley, Pench-Kanhan Valley, Wardha-Godavari Valley, etc. There are 69 major coalfields located in peninsular India; 17 located in the north-eastern region. The bulk of the coal reserves is confined to the south-eastern quadrant of the country in West Bengal, Jharkand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.


Coal resources


India ranks third amongst the coal producing countries of the world in terms of annual coal production. However, with respect to coal resources, it is endowed with less than one per cent of the world's coal resources. Of the 267.2 billion tonnes of Indian coal resources up to a depth of 1,200 m, about 105.7 billion tonne fall under the proved or confirmed category.


This constitutes about five per cent of the world proved coal resources. Till 1971-73, the coal mining operation remained primarily within the private sector and production had come up to a level of nearly 72 million tonne per year only. The entire coal industry in India was nationalised during 1972-73 and since then, massive investments were made by the government of India in this basic infrastructure sector. India now ranks as the 3rd largest coal producer in the world, next only to China and USA.


Mining depths in Indian coalfields are quite shallow, barring a few mines in Jharia and Raniganj coalfields. The major share of coal resources lies at a depth of less than 300 m. About 87 per cent of coal resources lie within the depth range of 600 m. However, in most of the coalfields, exploration work beyond 600 m depth is yet to be taken up. It is expected that the resource figures will improve considerably, with increased depth of exploration.


Coal industry


Coal India is the largest public sector company; about 81.9 per cent of the total coal production in the country comes from the collieries of Coal India (CIL). It has eight subsidiaries: Bharat Coking Coal, Central Coalfields, Eastern Coalfields, Western Coalfields, South Eastern Coalfields, Northern Coalfields, Mahanadi Coalfields and Central Mine Planning & Design Institute. The Singareni Collieries Company (SCCL) is a coal-mining company jointly owned by the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Government of India.


The Singareni coal reserves stretch across 350 km of the Pranahita, Godavari Valley of Andhra Pradesh, with a proven geological reserves aggregating to 8,791 million tonne. SCCL is currently operating 13 open-cast and 37 underground mines in Andhra Pradesh. The Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 was amended with effect from 9 June 1993 to allow coal mining by both the private and public sector for captive consumption for production of iron and steel, generation of power, washing of coal obtained from a mine and other end use, which would be notified by the Government from time to time. Under the last provision, cement production was further allowed as an end use wef 5 March 1996, for captive mining of coal. The restriction of captive mining does not apply to state-owned coal/mineral development undertakings like CIL, SCCL, Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), etc, and Mineral Development Corporation of the state governments.


Coal production


Coal production in the country during the year 2008-09 has been 492.75 million tonne as compared to the production of 457.08 million tonne achieved during the previous year, ie, 2007-08, showing a compounded annual growth rate of 9.2 per cent.


Coal projects


As on 31 March 2009, out of a total of 701 mining projects, costing Rs 20 million (0.33 million) and more, 411 projects stand completed (including projects which are merged, completed and merged, and where coal reserves have since been exhausted) and 160 projects are under various stages of implementation. Out of 160 ongoing projects, 125 are on schedule and 35 are delayed.


German mining industry


About 10 per cent of the resources of coal in the world are situated in India, and it is expected that the demand of thermal coal will increase in the next five years from 700 to 950 Mio t. Germany leads the world in engineering technology, especially in mining equipment. Many German companies have close ties with Indian mining houses. Some German firms also have local production in India, which has become a very important export market for the German mining equipment. German exports of mining machinery to India have shown some fluctuations over the last few years. It ranges between 13 Mio Euros in 2001, only 1.36 Mio Euros in 2003 and recently, 60.3 Mio Euros in 2009. In 2010, German manufacturers were able to stabilise the export of mining machinery after a decrease in the last year. During the first seven months, Germany delivered machinery worth 34 Mio Euro to Indian customers; longwall shearers and heading- and tunnelling machines mostly, were sold, they were followed by machinery for crushing and grinding.


The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) is located in Frankfurt, Germany. VDMA offers more than a 100 years of experience in the machinery, plant manufacturing industry and the information technology sector. The German Engineering Federation has over 3,000 members divided into 39 specific branch associations and is the largest network of the engineering industry in Europe. Mainly small and medium-sized enterprises reach an annual production value of Euros 160 billion and employ over 900,000 people. The Mining Equipment Association is part of VDMA and has an approximate of 120 member companies.

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