KOLKATA – India’s Coal Ministry will set up a committee of experts to compile a long-term strategy on capital investments and a technology upgrade to increase production from underground coal mines belonging to Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL).

According to an official in the Coal Ministry, a multidisciplinary approach would be adopted to establish the composition of the committee, with representatives drawn from CIL, SCCL, the Indian School of Mines (ISM) and the Geological Survey of India, with expertise in cost of production, operations, technology and safety in underground mining.

The Coal Ministry was convinced of the large potential to increase coal production from underground mines, but operational obsolescence, safety concerns and the lack of fresh capital investments were major hindrances to optimally tapping such potential, an official said.

The Ministry would leverage off existing international bilateral agreements which focus on cooperation in the mining and mineral sectors, and invite global underground mining technology equipment and service providers to assess current underground mining operations in India, the official added.

In 2012, the country’s opencast coal mines produced around 488-million tons of coal, while underground mine production was only 51-million tons.  Over the years, underground mining’s contribution to total domestic coal production has declined steadily from 18.51% in 2002/03 to 13.39% in 2006/07 and 9.6% in 2011/12.

The substantial fall in production from underground mines were largely owing to CIL, which accounted for 80% of the country’s total production.

The development of CIL’s underground mines has been slow-going, since the geophysical nature of India’s reserves did not permit underground mine capacity to exceed two-million tons a year, which meant that these mines were not economically feasible.

For the past several years, CIL had been attempting to revive 18 abandoned underground mines through global mine developers and operators; however, very few global miners have showed interest in these projects.

Courtesy: miningweekly.com