Stressing the need to employ new mining technologies, a top PSU official said India is likely to run out of its 60-70 billion tonnes of coal reserves by 2040-41 if the demand continues to grow at the present pace.
“The demand for coal will reach two billion tonnes mark by 2016-17. We need to grow at the rate of 17-18 per cent from the present 6-7 per cent to meet this growing demand,” Coal India Ltd (CIL) Chairman Partha S Bhattacharyya said at the ICC Coal Summit here.
“We need to employ new mining technologies to go deeper to explore the untapped resources, otherwise by 2040-41 our present coal blocks will run out of reserves due to the growing demand from consuming industries,” he said.
“The demand (for coal) by power sector for 2011-12 has been pegged at around 730 million tonnes but the production target for the 11th Five Year Plan is at around 680 million tonnes,” he said.
Echoing sentiments, Coal Secretary H C Gupta said, “Actual demand is more than what was forecast by the Working Group on Coal for the 11th Plan. We are looking to bridge the demand-supply gap.”
However, Minister of State for Coal Santosh Bagrodia was of the view that there is no shortage of coal in the country and the raw material can be unearthed at the rate of 12 per cent by this year itself.
“Where is the shortage. CIL has at present about 31 million tonnes coal with them. Around 15 million tonnes are kept for e-auction route for the consumers,” he said.
Talking about problems the industry faces, Bhattacharyya said, land acquisition and environmental issues are some hurdles in the growth of coal sector.
Apart from CIL, efforts are being made to give more blocks for development to other private and public sector companies, Gupta said.
“Besides, efforts are also made to streamline the process to give environment and forest clearance so that such approvals are given in time bound manner,” he said.
To mitigate the freight and transportation problems faced by coal miners, the government is looking at providing railway link to the extractors.
“Coal ministry is talking to the Ministry of Railways, so that transportation does not become a bottleneck in growth of this industry,” Gupta said.
The coal ministry is also working to increase the capacity of government’s exploration and mapping agency CMPDI and MECL and allow private companies to conduct the same in its efforts to tap more mining resources to meet the growing consumption by power, steel and cement producers among others, he said.
Empowering Coal India Ltd and other PSUs in this sector by giving them ‘mini-ratna’ and ‘Navratna’ status is also been discussed by the ministry.
“Giving ‘Navratna’ status to CIL is in advanced stage of consideration,” he said.
The ministry had recently conducted a study to have a watch-dog for the sector, he said, adding the matter to have a coal regulator is under consideration of the government.