CIL is targeting to produce 125 MT from underground coal mines by 2030. Here’s how

CIL has set a target of reaching 125 MT production from underground coal mines by 2030 and a vision document for the same was launched by Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi
Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi
Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi

New Delhi: In order to utilise the huge potential for underground coal mining in India, Coal India Limited (CIL) has set a target of reaching 125 Million Tonnes (MT) by 2030 and a vision document for the same was launched by Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi on Tuesday. The current production figure from underground coal mines stands at 25.49 MT for Coal India and 7.20 MT for Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL). In percentage terms, coal production from underground mines forms a meagre 4 percent of India’s total coal production.

According to the vision document, the plan is to take the production to 10 percent by 2030. Coal India, which contributes around 80 percent of India’s total coal production is planning to produce 100 MT of coal from underground coal mines by 2027-28 and 125 MT by 2029-30.

Underground coal mining

Underground coal mining is the extraction of coal through portals or shafts that intercept coal lying deep within the earth, usually between 600 metres to 1,200 metres beneath the surface. “In the early 80s, the coal production from opencast mining surpassed that from underground coal mines. The downward trend of coal production from underground mining is continuing till date,” said Dr Ajay Kumar, Director (Technical), CMPDIL. Currently, most of the domestically produced coal comes from opencast mining. However, due to depletion of coal reserves in opencast mines, India is now looking to supplement its opencast coal production with production from underground coal mines. Around 70 percent of the country’s coal reserves can be mined using underground mining.

The practice has also come to the light as with the technologies available currently, underground mining is considered a relatively environment-friendly way to extract coal from earth. According to experts, it causes minimal or no disturbance to the surface and the flora and fauna, requires less area on surface on mine entry, thereby eliminating the cost of land acquisition and does not generate dust emission caused due to mining.

Why has CIL restricted its UG coal production to just 4% so far?

According to official figures, out of 352 mines owned by Coal India Limited until 2020, 158 mines were underground mines. However, the coal miner had so far restricted its coal production from these mines to just 4 percent so far because of financial viability issues. Underground coal mining is a labour-intensive process and India was mostly dependent on imported equipment so far for underground coal mining. “In the past few years, four out of seven underground coal mines owned by Coal India have become financially viable. And we have observed that with scaling up of highwall mines, extraction of coal from underground coal mines can become financially viable,” B Veera Reddy, Director (Technical), Coal India told PSU Watch on the sidelines of an event on underground coal mining.

The plan that Coal India has going forward is to make use of the underground coal mining technologies and equipment being produced indigenously and to deploy it on scale to bring down the cost of production from underground coal mines.

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