The management of Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), faced with declining numbers of coal miners, is likely to utilise machinery to achieve the uphill task of meeting the target coal production of 68 million tonnes during the financial year (FY).
In its 17 open cast projects (OCP) and 29 underground mines (UG), SCCL had set a target of producing 66 million tonnes of coal during FY 2017-18 , but could only achieve 62.01 million tonnes. The current target of 68 million tonnes may be a Herculean task, trade union leaders and coal miners fear.
A decade ago, during FY 2007-08, SCCL produced 40.60 million tonnes of coal. At that time, it had 75,573 coal miners on its books. In FY 2017-18, the 62.01 million tonnes were produced with only 54,043 miners. Despite losing over 20,000 miners, the management’s ever increasing production targets have steadily increased the burden on the staff.
Officials are confident of achieving the target by increasing the performance of machinery in all the mines. The side dump loader (SDL) and load-header dumpers (LHD) - which were functioning for 8 hours to 10 hours per day in three shifts - would function between 14 hours and 16 hours per day to increase coal production in underground mines.
In OCPs, the miners may also face increased working hours. The management plans to make the workers use showels for increasing coal production in the open cast mines. The officials claimed if the available machinery is put to efficient use, the target coal production could definitely be achieved this year.
Trade union leaders and miners expressed concerns that to meet the target, the work load on the miners may be too taxing. Already a majority of the miners are aged over 50 years. They are also suffering from various ailments and burdening them with heavy workload would prove dearly, the trade union leaders stated. Stating that the management was encouraging private contractors in the execution of coal and overburden work in the OCPs, the trade union leaders demanded that the government should accord priority for the recruitment of coal miners. They insisted that more underground mines be opened up to provide employment and increase coal production.