New Delhi, October 20, 2022 : Shri M. Nagaraju, IAS, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Coal stated creating awareness on underground coal mining is the need of the hour. “In the last couple of years, the Government of India (GoI) has been trying to encourage underground mining,” he said at the conference that was held today on Underground Coal Mining – Challenges, Opportunities & Way.
“We actually had put many underground mines out for auction, but not many opted for them as there are equally large numbers of open-cast mines available for bidding for a very low remuneration. Underground mining, everybody knows, costs higher than open-cast mining, so most businessmen wanting to have more profit opt for the latter,” he added.
The conference was organised by the apex industry body, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) with support of the Ministry of Coal.
Shri Nagaraju, who was the guest of honour at the conference, noted that even though India has a rich legacy of underground mining, somehow it has moved away from it unlike countries like Chile, Australia, America, Canada and USSR. Extolling the benefits of underground mining, he explained, “Underground mining is more important if you take and compute the costs of environmental and climate change costs. Besides, large tracts of land need to be acquired for open cast mining, which is not the case with underground mining. Also, the surface conditions of the land is not disturbed once the coal has been extracted, it can be closed without damaging the climate. So, it is desirable in terms of environmental as well as social costs.”
He also emphasised that underground mining will help bring down the import of coals. “With underground coal mining, the quality of coals will be better,” stated Shri Nagaraju, adding, “There is a need to reduce the import of high-grade coals from foreign sources, which we can achieve with encouraging underground coal mining here.”
The Additional Secretary, Ministry of Coal noted that it is important to consider the human costs when dealing with land. He shared, “I have been acquiring lands for the past three years for coal companies. I have interacted with people who lose lands because land is not just land, it is an important of the social fabric and entails factors like capital, environment etc. As far as possible we should minimise the human cost of evicting people from their own lands, so that they’ll also become partners for this kind of ventures.” He also stated that “private sector companies keep a certain portion of its profits for R&D purposes” in mining as it helps “in the long-term interest and security of the country.”
In his address, Shri Rajendra Ingale, Chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Coal & Business Head-Coal Mining, Adani Enterprises Limited, stated that underground mining has a significant potential to meet the nation’s energy needs. “To maximise all of the benefits,” he suggested, “the mining industry should accelerate its privatisation. With the help of infrastructural improvements and regulatory changes, it is necessary to enhance coal production and create new mines. When it comes to underground mining, which is efficient, the rewards are bigger.” He stated that India has over 200 underground mining locations.
According to Shri Sanjay Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Skill Council for Mining Sector, “Skill development has an added responsibility for scaling projects for National Occupational Standards.” He added, “Proper mine design, surveying, and research are necessary to meet the demands of the mining business. For the sector to grow, he underlined the importance of safety, productivity, quality assurance, mechanization, and waste management.”
Shri Abdul Kalam, Ex Director Coal India & Ex CMD ECL offered his thoughts on the importance of raising production to meet the growing demand for coal. He urged the private sector to invest in the mining industry. He also added to utilized land fully and focuses on land acquisitions in a desired manner.
A report on Underground Coal Mining- Challenges, Opportunities & Way Forward was also released in presence of Shri Nagaraju and other eminent dignitaries.