The movement of coal in the country may be affected as the Indian Railways diverts trains to ease some of the rush at Allahabad owing to the Kumbh Mela following a stampede at the city’s railway station on Sunday that led to 36 deaths.
Indian Railways transports 1.5 million tonnes (mt) of coal every day and moves 52% of the coal that is mined in the country—a share that’s expected to rise to 58% in 2016-17.
With passenger movement taking precedence over goods movement, coal transportation through rakes will be affected, coal secretary S.K. Srivastava said on Tuesday in New Delhi.
The railways has rushed 50 trains to Allahabad to help meet the rush of 30 million Kumbh devotees thronging the city.
“The unfortunate incident will have a direct impact on rake loading,” Srivastava said at a conference on the power sector organized by Central Electricity Authority and the Confederation of Indian Industry lobby group. “The turnaround time of the railway rakes will increase because of this.”
India faces a chronic shortage of the fuel with the state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) unable to keep pace with growing demand. India has a power generation capacity of 2,10,952 megawatts (MW), of which 57.3%, or 120873.38MW, is coal-based. The power sector is the major consumer of the fossil fuel, absorbing nearly 78% of total domestic production.
Coal India, the world’s biggest coal miner, produced only 431mt in 2010-11 against a target of 461.5mt, because of stalled projects. It failed to meet its 2011-12 target of 440mt as well, mining 435.84mt, but has set a target of producing 468.74mt in 2012-13 amid environment-related hurdles and is under pressure from power companies for more supplies.
Srivastava said he was confident CIL would meet its target.
At the same conference, Jyotiraditya Scindia, minister of state for power with independent charge, said, “Fuel supply agreements of close to 66 gigawatts are likely to be signed in the next two-three months... Also, work is in progress to set up an independent coal regulator and implement the process of price pooling through coal imports.”
Srivastava added that CIL hasn’t been getting bid responses for contracts it’s offering for mine developers and operators (MDOs).
“We are looking at the bid documents and trying to improve them in consultation with the finance ministry,” he said.
Coal demand in India is expected to grow from 649mt per annum (mtpa) now, to 730 mtpa in 2016-17. The availability of local coal is estimated at 550mt in 2016-17. India’s demand for imported coal is growing and stands at an annual 137mt. India has a known gross resource base of 264,000mt of coal, the fourth largest in the world, of which proven reserves are around 101,000mt.
By outsourcing mining, CIL will gain access to high-end technology for underground mining through partnerships with global miners. Credit Suisse India Research said in a 29 January report that, “the ministry of coal is also focusing on increasing mining activity through MDO contracts. Going forward, MDO contracts are likely to be awarded on an integrated basis where MDO shall be responsible for securing requisite approvals, land acquisition, coal mining as well as transportation, instead of the simple contracting system earlier.”
In another development, the coal ministry plans to set up an inter-ministerial committee within a week to resolve issues on coal allocation.
“There are a number of issues which need to be addressed. We have got a feedback from the private sector with regard to linkages for the captive coal blocks or the ones which are facing environmental clearance issues,” Srivastava said.
The coal ministry is awaiting environmental clearance for at least 10 coal mining projects, apart from stage II forest clearance for five projects and stage I clearance for 14 coal projects. Forest clearance is accorded in two stages, of which stage I is in-principle approval. Stage II is the final clearance, after all conditions stipulated by the ministry while giving stage I clearance have been met.
“We have decided to set up an inter-ministerial committee which will look into these issues. It will come up with policy resolutions, which we may further take to CCI (cabinet committee on investment),” Srivastava added.
CCI was set up to hasten decisions on big projects.
PTI contributed to this story.