Coal India Ltd (CIL) has decided to invest an estimated Rs 17,500 crore over the next five years to put in place completely mechanised transportation of coal through piped conveyor belts in its large mines by 2023-24 from the pitheads to despatch points which will replace road transportation wholly.
This system is already operational in some of the mines but has not been adopted in a major way. This will be implemented in 35 of CIL’s projects, each having a production capacity of more than 4 million tonnes (mt).
Piped conveyor belt transportation of coal is a covered system for movement of coal and thus promotes environment safety and prevents possible coal pilferage.
“This will be a tipping point in transportation of coal in the first mile connectivity and result in multi-pronged advantages to all concerned,” a company official said.
This initiative involves setting up of Coal Handling Plants (CHPs) with silos having Rapid Loading Systems, which will have benefits like crushing, sizing of coal, quicker and quality coal loading. It will also have the advantage of pre-weighed quantity of coal being loaded.
Although CIL declined to share the capital expenditure it will incur to build this covered system of coal transport, market sources estimate that the company may have to invest Rs 17,500 crore for this project over the next five years.
Currently, coal is transported via road by trucks from the pithead to the despatch point which tends to add to the dust and air pollution. Many residents have already raised issues of pollution and have held protests at some of the key mining areas of Coal India.
According to the company, most of the coal is loaded into rail wagons through pay loaders, which leads to to overloading or under loading of wagons apart from extraneous material being loaded leading to quality issues.
The company official said that setting up of the CHPs apart from efficient loading and reduced manual intervention led to a better quality coal supply.
In the last fiscal year, CIL loaded 151 mt of coal via rapid loading system and an additional 420 mt of coal is planned to be loaded through silos and surge bins, which will be set up at the identified 35 projects. This will boost the total mechanised loading to 571 mt by 2023-24.
Surge bins are large bins where the ore is dumped prior to being discharged into the primary crusher.
The company official estimated that evacuation of coal from the pitheads to the loading points via the covered pipe conveyor system would account for 65 per cent of the total targeted coal production of 880 mt.
Besides, this move is also expected to bring down wagon idling.
“Wagon cycle time will be reduced by few hours thus increasing wagon availability. It is a win-win situation for the company, railways and the consumer,” the Coal India official said.