New Delhi: Even as Santosh Bagrodia, minister of state for coal, denied any coal shortage in the country, state-owned Coal India Ltd , or CIL, the country’s largest coal mining firm, said it plans to import 4 million tonnes (mt) of coal this year, the first such trade by the public sector unit. “We are looking to import 4mt this year. We are yet to firm up the source of this import,” CIL chairman Partha Bhattacharyya said.
That number could increase, said another official.
“Going forward, the volume of coal imports by CIL may even increase depending upon the demand of the consumers in the country,” said a senior coal ministry official who did not wish to be named.
Buy time: CIL chief Bhattacharyya says?import source not firmed up. Indranil Bhaumik / Mint
India has 256 billion tonnes of coal reserves, of which around 455mt per annum is mined. The country currently imports around 40mt of coal. Demand for the fuel is expected to reach about 2 billion tonnes a year by 2031-32 with the maximum demand coming from the power sector.
CIL currently mines 380mt of coal and plans to increase this to 405mt by 2009-10. It also plans to acquire mines in Indonesia, Mozambique and Australia, Bhattacharyya said.
Several companies allotted coal mines have not commenced production—in some cases—because their coal mines haven’t received requisite environmental clearances. India has an installed power generation capacity of 143,000 MW and around 67% of this is based on coal. A significant portion of this capacity is idle because promised supplies of coal are not being delivered by CIL.
For instance, India’s largest power producer, state-run NTPC Ltd, is facing acute shortage of coal at its 1,000MW Simhadri project in coastal Andhra Pradesh which has enough supplies of coal to generate power only for the next four days, as reported by Mint on 29 August.
Bagrodia, however, denied that there is any shortage of coal.
“We had 47 mt as stock on 1 April. The stocks today are at 31 mt. We are offering 15 mt per month. The talks of shortage are to do with the mental makeup we have.”
“Bridging gaps through sporadic imports may not be the optimal solution for the long term. A planned approach to develop capacities within India and also to acquire assets abroad may help, since the options of imports are increasingly getting expensive and difficult,” said Dipesh Dipu, principal consultant, mining with audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.