Chief minister Hemant Soren at Sikni colliery in Latehar on Monday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, May 19: Chief minister Hemant Soren flagged off five coal-laden trucks to formally green-light production at Sikni colliery, marking the first despatch from the open-cast mines in Latehar owned by Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation after nearly three years.
The corporation despatched 101 trucks today, each coal-laden vehicle carrying between nine and 10 tonnes.
Sikni is targeting coal production of 1mtpa, an initiative that will revive employment opportunities to the tune of around 10,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs.
“Jab aam janata mein khushhali ayegi to humara bhi bhala hoga. Hum log mil jul kar is colliery ko chalaenge (If masses get prosperous, we too will gain. We will jointly run this colliery),” Hemant told the media at Sikni after the launch.
“The coal reserves at Sikni are around 11 million tonne. Initially, we aim at producing 1mtpa. But, annual production levels may gradually go up if the situation is conducive,” said JSMDC company secretary Amit Chakravarty.
Set up in 1994 by Bihar State Mineral Development Corporation (BSMDC), the 410-acre colliery was formally taken over by the JSMDC on May 6, 2002. Production work came to a grinding halt in July 2011 over mining lease and forest clearance hitches after mining in 149 acres, comprising forest and non-forest land, exhausted under phase-I.
In phase-II, mining will be carried across 133.75 acres of Sikni coal bed for 11 years.
In 2011, when the colliery closed, Hemant, then deputy chief minister in the Arjun Munda-led BJP-JMM-Ajsu coalition, who also held mines and geology and finance portfolios, could not do much to reopen it.
On becoming chief minister on July 13, 2013, Hemant gradually took steps to restart operations at Sikni. In November 2013, Hemant appointed controversial Independent MLA from Panki Videsh Singh as JSMDC chairman in open defiance of allies.
Assuming his new charge, Singh announced reopening Sikni at the earliest was his priority.
Considerable political significance is being attached to the reopening of Sikni colliery at a time when the BJP’s thumping majority in Lok Sabha elections has left the state’s ruling JMM-Congress-RJD in tatters.
On expansion plans, Chakraborty said efforts were on to begin mining operations at nearby Jagalgaon coal bed with around 11 million tonne reserves.
“We need to acquire forestland in the area. Efforts are on to forge a joint venture with the BSMDC, and begin mining operations at Gawan coal block, also in Latehar, with some 51 million tonne coal reserves,” he said.