This strategic initiative will help unlock huge reserves of the commodity in short supply

At a time when hurdles over land and forestry clearances have wreaked havoc on the coal production plans of Coal India Ltd (CIL), its subsidiary Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL) has achieved a breakthrough in underground mining where lack of technology has hampered production since nationalisation.

After quite a few years of effort, latest global technology is being brought in for development and operation of high capacity underground mines. At least two of the tenders pertain to mines holding reserves of prime coking coal in virgin seams.

BCCL Chairman and Managing Director T. K. Lahiry told this correspondent that tender for the Muraidih underground mine has been awarded. Board approval is to be sought for the proposal for three more — Block II underground, Kapuria and Moonidih XV seam — with a total reserve of 4.5 million tonnes of prime coking coal.

The total investment in these projects (to be made by BCCL) is expected to be around Rs.1,200 crore with the technology-providers assuring guaranteed production over a 10-year period with bonus and penalty clauses.

Global tenders have been won or are set to be awarded to consortium of coal equipment companies which include (separately for the four mines) CME (China National Coal Mining Equipment Company), Joy Global of the U.K., Mineop Consulting and a German company. All these have one or more Indian partners, it was learnt.

Apart from these, another nine underground mines, tenders for which are in the pipeline, envisage a capacity addition of about seven million tonnes of prime coking coal, Mr. Lahiry said. He said that this strategic initiative by BCCL would help unlock huge reserves of a commodity which is in short supply. On the other hand and importantly, with underground production, land requirement is nil and environmental clearances are not difficult as the impact is minor.

It may be mentioned that CIL had taken up eight such underground projects for attracting international technology. However the effort did not meet with much success.

Mr. Lahiry said that while in the past BCCL had worked deep seams but the exercise had been uneconomical. These technologies are expected to address that problem.

He said that with these initiatives, the present underground production of four million tonnes was set to increase to 11 million tonnes after about three years. Alongside, the Rs.1,500-crore loss now being incurred on account of underground mining will be transformed into a profit of Rs.3,500 crore.

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