The government-owned coal mining and refining company Coal India Limited (CIL) on Friday announced that it plans to search for more environmentally friendly "green mining" solutions for running its operations.
The company will investigate a variety of environmentally friendly technologies to deploy in its mines. According to the company's news release, such technology would help it minimise land degradation to a great extent, as well as excavate locked-up coal reserves that had previously been overlooked owing to technological, commercial, and safety reasons.
CIL is seeking to quadruple its underground (UG) mining output to 100 million tonnes by FY2030, up from about 25.6 MTs in FY22. UG output is an ecologically sustainable option that has a low impact on land degradation and is considered socially acceptable. Around 70 per cent of the country's coal deposits are suitable for underground extraction.
The state-run coal mining behemoth said that while it believes that at the current rate its mineable coal reserves at its open-cast (or OC) mines can begin to dwindle, the company's underground mining production can complement its OC production in the future. OC mining or surface mining is usually considered more hazardous to the environment.
Furthermore, CIL said that it plans to use punch entry techniques in only those OC mines which have achieved their ultimate pit level. As per the company, this could be achieved by leveraging a variety of new techniques. CIL intends to find and implement 5 such mines in a phased manner by punch entry through FY'24, so that economically viable mineable coal assets can be extracted.
The firm also plans to install 10 High Wall machines in its OC mines, with a projected production capacity of 5 MTs/Year. With one such project already active in the South Eastern Coalfields (SECL), three others will soon be functional in the Eastern Coalfields division (ECL), the company announced in its release.
Ever since nationalisation in 1975, UG output has decreased by 57.7 per cent till present day, whereas OC output has surged by 8.5 times. Production losses, a long gestation period, a scarcity of skilled labour, a lack of indigenous equipment, and high departmental production costs have all plagued UG mines throughout the years, making them unsustainable.
However, with the adoption of mass production technologies, availability of indigenous manufacturing units, and well-trained skilled labour, apart from outsourcing to contractors to lay down production costs and make use of paste-fill technology instead of the more conventional sand stowing for extracting coal from UG mines, the company aims to make UG mining a long-term sustainable option for coal production, while also ensuring the least environmental implications of its operations.
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