India ranks third among the coal producing countries of the world. It contributed 8.5 per cent of the total world production of coal in 2001-02. Coal mining in India started in 1774 when permission was granted to Messrs Summer and Healthy to work out Raniganj coal mine by Warren Hastings. Although this initial venture failed another successful attempt was made in 1814. By 1830 several coal mines started operating in the Raniganj field with total output of 2.82 lakh tones.
The opening of the East Indian Railway in 1855 and its expansion to Barakar coal areas in 1866 gave coal mining a great impetus. In 1860 there were 50 collieries which produced about 3 lakh tones of coal. By the end of the 19th century coal mining was also started in Assam. Singareni, Wardha valley and central India as a result of which production rose to 61 lakh tones in 1900 (cf. 10 and 22 lakh tones in 1880 and 1890 respectively).
The two World Wars helped in the expansion of the industry. In 1914 coal production jumped to 16 million tones. Despite slight set back during inter-war period it touched a new high of 29 million tons in 1945 due to Second World War. In 1951 it was 34.95 lakh tones. In 1956 National coal Development Corporation was started to improve coal mining. As a result the production rose to 56 lakh tones in 1961. During 1963-67 the progress passed through another period of stagnation (71.8 lakh tones 1971.
Thence onward there has been sharp increase in the production of coal in the country. It was 211.6 million tons in 1990-91 so as to rise to 382.61 million tons in 2004-05. There has been about I 1 times increase in the production of coal between 1950-51 and 2004-05 the lignite production during the period has risen from 34 thousand tones (in 1951) to 303.4 lakh tones (in 2004-05) recording a 892times increase.
There has been remarkable increase in the coal production with the nationalisation of coal mines in 1972 and formation of Coal India Limited (CIL) in 1975. It has seven subsidiary companies: Eastern Coalfield Ltd. (ECL). Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. (BCCL), Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL), Northern Coalfields Ltd. (NCL), South-Eastern Coalfields Ltd. (SECL), Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. (SCCL), and Western Coalfields Ltd. (WCL).
These together produce 88% of the total coal production of the country. Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. (SCCL) is a joint enterprise of Andhra Pradesh and Central Government. IISCO. DVC and TISCO are other organisations busy in coal production.
At state level Madhya Pradesh with Chhattisgarh is the largest producer of coal accounting for 30.03 per cent of the country’s total production. Here over three-fourth of the production comes from Surguja (30.6%), Shahdol (27.5%), and Sidhi (19.1%) districts. Chhindwara (15%), BetuI (7.8%) and Raigarh are other districts engaged in coal mining.
Dhanbad alone contributes over 70% of the state production followed by Ranchi and Giridih etc.
Orissa with 15.31 % of the country’s output coal occupies third place in India. Here Sambalpi district is the major producer. Andhra Pradesh coil tributes about 10% of the total coal production of tl country. Karimnagar district comes on the top fool lowed by Adilabad and Khammam. Maharashti annually produces about 9.2% of coal in India Chandrapur, Nagpur and Yavatmal districts aretl major contributors. West Bengal (6.0%) wi Barddhaman district. Uttar Pradesh (5.2%) wills Mirzapur district, Meghalaya (1.29%) with E; Khasi Hills district, Assam (0.22%) with Dibrugai district, and Jammu and Kashmir are other contributors of coal production in the country.
Over 70 per cent of the lignite production the country comes from South Argot district Tamil Nadu. Rest of the supply is provided b Kachchh district of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Coal is by far the most important source of commercial energy in the country. It is used as basic fuel in many industries. Entire process of steel making is based on metallurgical coal. Thermal power produced from low-grade coal accounts for 64% of the total installed capacity and 69% of the electricity generated in the country. Coal is an important source of naphtha and ammonia used for making chemical fertilizers. Tar, Benzol, sulphur, saccharine, carbon black and gas from coal are used in a number of industries. Coal is used as fuel in railway, ships and boats. Soft coke is used as fuel in the kitchen.
The consumption of coal by different sectors in 1991-92 has been of 61.95% in thermal power plants. I 1.57% in steel industry, 4.51% in cement industry, 2% in railways, 1.91 % in fertilizer industry. 0.45% in coke making. 9% in coal wateriness and 8.6% in brick burning and miscellaneous uses. There is increasing demand of coal in thermal power plants to generate electricity.
Besides meeting her home demands India also exports some quantity of coal to the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal. Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In view of high prices of coal in world market efforts are being made to export coal to Japan, European Economic Community and Middle East.
India exported 1.24 lakh tones of coal in 1963-64, which increased to 2.98 lakh tones in 1970-71.4.33 lakh tones in 1975-76 and 19.02 lakh tones in 2001 -02. It also imported 8 lakh tones of good quality coking coal from Australia and Canada in 1977-78.
To meet the growing demand of coking coal in steel industry and to improve the quality of low grade coal a number of coal wateriest have been established near coal mines where coal is converted into coke and it’s certain impurities removed.
There are at present 20 coals wateriest with total capacity of 34 million tones peryear. Five new coals wateriest including one at Madhuband is under construction. 19 coal washeries produce coking coal while lone washery at Nowrozabad produces non-coking coal. Fourteen of these washeries are managed by Coal India Limited (CIL). Seven washeries (Dugda I, II,
Bhojudih. Patherdih, Lodna, Sudamdih and Munidih) produce high grade coking coal. Similarly Kargali. Kathera, Sawang, Gidi, Barora and Nandan washeries manufacture medium grade coking coal. Durgapur I washery is under West Bengal Government and those of Jamdoba and West Bokaro under Tata Iron & Steel Co., that of Nowrozabad under Western Coalfield Ltd. (WCL), and Lodna and Durgapur II under the Bharat Coking Coal Ltd.
Problems of Coal Mining
The coal mining industry in India is confronted with following major problems:
(a) Poor Quality-much of the Indian coal is of non-coking grade unsuitable for metallurgical industries. It has high ash content (20 to 35%). The Tertiary coal, although low in ash, has high sculpture content (2-7%). New scientific techniques are to be evolved to remove these impurities and make these coals more useful. This will also reduce the import of good quality coal from abroad.
(b) Uneven Distribution-Most of the coal deposits of the country are located in the northeastern part of the Peninsula in the states of Bihar (Jharkhand).Madhya Pradesh (Chhattisgarh).Orissa and West Bengal. The northern, western and southern parts of the country are either deprived of coal deposits or have limited reserves of poor quality coal. Hence, long and costly haulages are necessary to transport coal to deficient areas. This leads to transport bottleneck and uneven economic and industrial development.
(c) Transport Bottleneck-In India more than 90% of the coal is transported through railways. Lack of railway facility in different parts of the country, variation in gauges, non-availability of adequate number of wagons, slow movement- of trains, pilferage etc create many problems. Often there is huge accumulation of stocks at pit heads and acute shortages leading to soaring prices in consuming areas. In 1992-93 CIL had 51 million tons of coal stock at pit-heads.
(d) Obsolete Methods of Mining-the coal mining techniques in India are old and outdated where major part of the work is still manual. This leads to low per capita production and higher production cost. Lack of new techniques and modern mining machines, non-availability of explosives
growing labour problems, uneconomic mines and public sector mismanagement have enabled CIL to incur huge losses. A number of mines have become unsafe and accident prone.
(e) Power shortage particularly in the DVC area is another serious problem faced by the coal mining industry. This hampers the mining work.
(f) Recession in Coal Mining-The coal mining industry is facing serious resource crunch due to its large scale dependence on power sector and mounting arrears over NTPC, and state electricity boards. There are low demands of coal in fertilizers, cement industries and railways. With the electrification of tracks and diesalisalion the consumption of coal in railways has been considerably reduced. Even domestic consumption has gone down with the increasing popularity of cooking gas.
(g) Environmental Pollution-Mining and use of coal lead to massive environmental degradation. The open cast mining ravages the whole area converting it into rugged and ravenous land. The coal dusts in mines and near pit-heads create health-hazards for miners and their families. The burning of coal in thermal plants and factories releases many toxic gases in the atmosphere. The safety measures against environmental pollution arc costly and beyond the reach of common entrepreneurs.
(h) Wastage of Coal-There is heavy wastage of coal resources due to unscientific minning and lack of suitable processing technique. Much of the inferior grade coal including coal dust is wasted. Fires in mines burn down valuable resources. Sudden flooding of mines, collapse of roof tops, accumulation of poisonous gases, and unworkable coal beds compel miners to abandon the mines.
Coal is a non-renewable energy resource which needs judicious and prudent exploitation. Efforts should be made to obtain optimum return from every kilogram of this resource, prevent its wasteful utilization and conserve it for future generation. The following measures are suggested for the conservation of coal resources:
1. The use of coking coal should be restricted for metallurgical industry only. In no case it should be allowed to be used for generating steam. Its consumption should be cut down to the minimum so that it should be conserved to meet the future requirements of the country.
2. Low grade coal should be washed and its impurities removed by utilising new techniques. It may be blended with good quality coal in requisite proportion and used in industries. Stowing should be resorted to and even enforced by law.
3. Selective mining should be effectively stopped. All possible grades of coal that could be practically available should be extracted and techniques should be developed to make their judicious utilisation.
4. New areas should be explored and their reserves assessed. Production from outlying fields should be stepped up by modernisation techniques.
5. Small and uneconomic collieries should be amalgamated and made economically viable units,
6. Greater emphasis should be given to popilarise non-conventional sources of energy to cot serve coal resources. Substitutes should be found on to replace coal as source of fuel and energy.
7. Environmental safety laws should be strict enforced to prevent the pollution in coal minim areas and in factories using coal as fuel and material. It should be made obligatory for miners level the ground and plant trees before closing abandoning mining activities.
8. Thermal power plants should be located pit heads to augment power generation and bird down the cost of transport.