In underground mining, we are one of the major fleet owners of underground mining equipment, with a fleet of more than 40 equipment including underground loaders, underground drill jumbos, low profile dump trucks, production drills, etc, says Jayaram S Kousik, Vice President - Geotechnical & Mining Division, Maheshwari Mining. Excerpts from the interview...
How do you assess the technology involved in exploration, and both open cast and underground mining methodologies?
In the open pit mining, the country has come up well to adopt the latest technologies; not only our company but many of our competitions are also doing well with the new technologies. They all have reached a new benchmark from using old systems to the latest equipment of hydrostatic drilling rigs and tooling, geological probing, etc. Outside India, the percentage of investment in exploration is very high, to about 5-6 per cent of the whole project value. Constant exploration ensures that there is sufficient ore body and helps in finding out the physical parameters of the ore. In India, the exploration process is very less, though CMPDI has now come up with many exploration activities. They are going to do almost 1 million metre of exploration. In underground (UG) mining methodologies, nothing much has happened so far in India. Only Hindustan Zinc has been able to go to the latest technologies.
Are there any specific reasons for the dismal percentage of UG mining?
There are two major reasons. One is that people are worried about the risk factor associated with underground mining due to instances such as mine collapses. Another factor is the high operational cost as it is 2-2.5 times more than that of open cast mining. Coal can be mined at Rs 200 or less in open pit method, while it is Rs 800 in underground mining for the same quantity. Similarly in metals also, the risk factor is high with underground mining, but still there are a lot of minerals for which we have to go underground. Mining of minerals such as manganese, chromite, copper and zinc are now going underground. Almost from 1995, there was a major decline in underground mining because of the price and many other factors. Also, the availability of technical and expert people shrunk.
What is your asset base (equipment, plant and machinery)?
We have a range of equipment such as 40 exploration drills (all hydrostatic), geophysical longing equipment and tie up for geological logging. We are planning to acquire more equipment as we have ordered 4-5 new equipment for our new projects. However, currently many projects are halted and our equipment are idle.
Could you brief us on your core strengths and competencies?
We are into underground mining and do mining of chromite, coal, zinc and copper. Our core strength lies in vertical shaft mining. We can do vertical shafts of up to 600 m and now we do complete mine development. We are now building up our mine planning activities that will take a few years to push ourselves. We are based in Raniganj in West Bengal where there is a major coal block. We have a division on exploration also.
What are the major challenges you face as a service provider?
The complete module of contract mining is still not properly implemented. There are a lot of gaps in the basic system of all the parameters on how the contractor will work and what services the clients will provide. It is getting resolved with time because everybody is in a learning phase. The people who are giving the contracts are also in the learning stage. Things will improve and will come out of this difficult phase because everybody has to keep an open mind so that both the clients and contractors benefit each other.