Coal India could close 53 underground mines this fiscal

Kolkata, Sep 12 (IANS): Coal India, which is looking to rationalise its underground mines in view of safety and financial viability, could close about 53 such mines this year, its Chairman Anil Kumar Jha said on Wednesday.

"About 43 underground mines were closed last year on grounds of safety and viability. We have inherited many underground mines at the time of nationalisation. That time there were more than 700 mines. Now with each passing day we are trying to rationalize mines which are small and not financially viable. For some of the mines we are trying to amalgamate and turn some of them into opencast," he said.

"We have given a project to Indian School of Mines to give us a solution about how the underground mines can be managed by closing or by amalgamating or converting into opencast. This exercise is going on," said Jha, adding that a report is expected in six months.

Coal India Ltd (CIL) has undertaken rail infrastructure projects for planned growth in production and sales and as many as 13 projects for coal evacuation have been identified, he said.

He said two coking coal washeries were commissioned and plans are on the anvil to set up a non-coking coal washery in Odisha's Ib-Valley for which a letter of intention was issued.

"Coal India is tasked with meeting challenging targets in the years ahead. Going forward in order to meet the production targets, it needs to step up its growth rate.

"In order to achieve the planned growth in production and extraction in future, the company has undertaken major rail infrastructure projects," Jha said.

Out of the identified projects, three would be funded by coal companies, four by special purpose vehicles and six by railways, the miner said.

The miner is pursuing an aspirational production target of 652 million tonnes in the current fiscal while it had produced 567.36 million tonnes in 2017-18.

At the 44th Annual General Meeting, Jha informed shareholders that annual grade declaration of the current fiscal was finalised by the Coal Controller Office.

"A total of 386 mines were reassessed and out of these, 61 mines were downgraded and 42 mines were upgraded," he said in his speech.

Jha also said, "A total of 11 coal blocks have been allotted to Eastern Coalfields, Bharat Coking Coal and Western Coalfields and these new blocks will help these subsidiaries produce more than 100 million tonnes of coal per annum in the near future.

"He said four coal mining projects with an ultimate capacity of 24.6 million tonnes per annum and a total capital investment of Rs 4,155.46 crore were approved.

In order to monitor coal quality, Jha said, a portal UTTAM (unlocking transparency by third party assessment of mined coal) was launched by the miner to capture the entire life cycle of sample.

According to him, coal reserve stood at 319 billion tonnes upto a depth of 1,200 metres as on April 1, as per the estimated geological resource of India.

CIL is planning to set up a coal-based methanol plant at Dankuni Coal Complex (DCC) of South Eastern Coalfields Limited.

"The methanol to be produced at DCC will likely to find a definitive market in the eastern states of India, once the policy of the government for blending of methanol with petrol comes into practice," he said.