Commercial coal mining to re-open to private firms
Government is set to reopen commercial coal mining to private companies for the first time in 40 years, with the aim of shifting the world's third-biggest coal importer towards energy self-sufficiency. Anil Swarup, the country's top coal bureaucrat, said that the government has identified mines it plans to auction. Swarup added that the government was now finalizing terms like eligibility criteria and revenue sharing.
India has a long history of commercial coal mining covering nearly 220 years starting from 1774. Introduction of steam locomotives in 1853 boosted the then sluggishly growing industry. Post-independence coal production found place in government's 5-year plans. Setting up of National Coal Development Corporation (NCDC)- a Government of India Undertaking in 1956, was the first major step towards planned development of the coal Industry.
During 60's and 70's, despite the growing energy needs of the country, there was not adequate capital investment from private coal mine owners. Further, unscientific mining practices and poor working conditions of labour in private coal mines concerned the government. So government nationalised the private coal mines in two phases: coking coal mines in 1971-72 and non-coking coal mines in 1973.
A cumulative total of 301.56 billion tonnes of geological resources of coal have so far been estimated in the country as on 1 April 2014. Jharkhand, Odisha and Chattisgarh are the three top coal producing state of the country. As of now, only Coal India Ltd (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) are allowed to mine and sell coal in India.
Modi's government aims to double Indian coal production to 1.5 billion tons by 2020. According to the Union coal secretary, a billion tonne will come from Coal India Ltd (CIL) and 500 to 600 million tonne from the private sector.
India's overall production of coal for 2014-15 stood at 612.44 million tonnes (All India). Of this, Coal India and its subsidiaries accounted for 494.23 million tonnes, which is 82% of total production. Singareni Collieries Company produced 52.54 million tonnes of coal. Small quantities of coal are also produced by TISCO, IISCO, DVC, etc. India also imported 212.10 million tonnes of coal in 2014-15.
Until last year, India spent around $16 billion a year importing foreign coal, even though it sits on the world's fifth-biggest reserves of coal.