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New Delhi: Coal India Ltd (CIL) on Friday said it is taking looking at green mining options with a view to minimizing adverse environmental impact by leveraging a slew of eco-friendly technologies in both underground mining and opencast method.

In a statement, Coal India said it is exploring ramping up its underground production by four-fold to 100 million tonne by FY2030 from 25.6 MT in FY22. Underground output is environmentally clean, minimally invasive on land degradation, society friendly, it said, adding that around 70% of the country’s coal reserves are conducive for UG mining.

“The aim is to make UG production sizably supplement the opencast output. At current rate, mineable coal reserves at existing OC will slowly start lowering," said the statement.

With land turning out to be a major pain point for expansion of coal mining operations, eco-friendly technologies bypass land acquisition and avoid its degradation, according to Coal India. The locked-up coal assets left out earlier due to techno-commercial and safety concerns can now be unearthed through these technologies.

Among mass production technologies, CIL will introduce 50 continuous miners by FY25 with peak production potential of 25 MT per year. 21 such machines are already deployed in Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) CCL and South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL) producing 9 MT a year.

Two powered support long wall (PSLW) machines operating in ECL and Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) produced 1.58 MTs in FY22 against 1.13 MTs in FY21, posting 40% growth. Two more PSLWs with a total capacity of 4.5 MT per year are soon to be deployed in BCCL.

In a first, CIL is aiming to mine coal through punch entry in those opencast mines which have reached their ultimate pit level. This could be done through a mix of technologies. CIL plans to identify and implement five such mines through punch entry in phased manner till FY24. So that mineable coal assets can be extracted with economic viability.

CIL is planning to deploy 10 high wall machines in its opencast mines during the ongoing fiscal with projected production potential of 5 MT per year. With one such project already operational in SECL three more will soon be functional in ECL. One highwall machine entails a capex of 200 crore.

Since nationalisation in 1975, underground output contracted by 57.7% till FY22 while opencast production expanded by 8.5 times.

The public sector major said that loss incurring production, longer gestation period, lack of skilled labour, unavailability of indigenous equipment, and departmental production cost were reasons for non-adoption of UG mining.

“With multiple options available now UG production could become viable," it said. Mass production technologies, availability of indigenous manufacturing units and well trained skilled labour would help taking up UG mining. Outsourcing to contractors would scale down the cost of production and Gestation period is also considerably lower now.

With these advantages, CIL plans to steadily scale up the locked-up underground coal assets.

It also said that ‘paste fill’ technology is yet another environment friendly frontier which involves high speed stowing technology. This will be compatible with mass production technology.

In contrast to conventional sand stowing, it uses fly ash to fill the void created by extracting coal from UG mines, which is yet another environmental friendly step. Such system is in advanced stage of implementation in ECL.

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