Anup Biswas addresses the forum in Ranchi on Friday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Open-cast reserves will empty out pretty soon, forcing the mining industry to train its focus on underground reserves to feed the country’s coal needs.
Experts came to this conclusion at the daylong workshop on “Underground coal mining in Indian geo-mining conditions — the mining operators’ perspective” in Ranchi on Friday.
Nearly, 100 delegates from public and private operators took part in the event organised by Central Mines Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI), Ranchi, a Coal India Limited (CIL) subsidiary, at the institute’s Mayuri Hall.
Speaking as chief guest, Anup Biswas, deputy director-general of mines safety (Ranchi), stressed on the need for underground mining. He also stressed on adhering to safety norms such as acquisition of land in mining areas and stowing of exhausted pits.
While the experts unanimously agreed that underground mining was the future, many of them observed this alternative method would hike coal cost if operators had to fulfil all norms prescribed by safety guardians.
According to experts, India produced 558MT of coal through both open-cast and underground mining in 2012-13, of which the share of CIL was 452MT.
But, production through underground mining declined over the years and stood at only 55MT in 2012-13, with CIL’s share being 38MT.
Explaining the reasons behind the decline in production from underground reserves, institute’s CMD A.K. Debnath, guest of honour at the inaugural session, said many promising deep reserves were converted into open-cast ones in the past for immediate profit.
“Once the reserves at the surface level are exhausted, miners will have to dig deep into the earth to extract coal,” he said.
During three technical sessions that followed, delegates focused on alternative stowing material vis-à-vis river sand to reduce cost of underground mining.
“It’s known to all that acquisition of land is a problem these days, more so if it’s a forest plot. Then, if miners have to follow strict safety norms, production cost will escalate, making coal costlier than the imported fuel,” pointed out one of the experts.
He added: “We stow exhausted mines wherever there is any settlement on the land above. But if forestland is also stowed the same way, things will get difficult for us.”