It is one of the largest coal mines in the region and the source of fuel for two big thermal power units — Farakka (2,100 Mw) in West Bengal and Kahalgaon (2,340 Mw) in Bihar.
The villages around Rajmahal are protesting against the existing compensation for land acquisition by Eastern Coalfileds (ECL), a subsidiary of state-owned Coal India. The 700-million tonne (mt) mine has been operational for over two decades and has exhausted a little more than 60 per cent of its capacity. Expansion of the mine is a continuous process, with the area (Lalmatia) having high coal potential. The plan has hit a block as the villagers have presently refused the compensation offered by ECL.
The central government has sought immediate intervention of Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das, telling him ECL needs to start production immediately. In its letter, the ministry of coal has expressed apprehension that NTPC’s thermal power plants would face a supply shortage in the coming two months.
“As per the new compensation policy, we either offer one full and final monetary settlement for buying land or give a job to one person in a family, with less monetary compensation. This is along with the mandatory resettlement and rehabilitation that we do. We are trying to convince them,” said a senior ECL official in Lalmatia.
Officials said ECL needs a total of 30 hectares in line with its expansion plan. The company is aiming to acquire at least 100 acres this year, which would increase coal production by 70 mt annually.
“If mining is disrupted for another week, supply would be hit.
The monsoon will arrive in another two weeks, which stalls mining. We would then deploy the reserve stock (enough for two months) for supplying to Farakka and Kahalgaon,” said the official.
Farakka and Kahalgaon are also operating at below optimum coal supply. NTPC executives at Farakka said it had close to 150,000 tonnes, down from 400,000 tonnes a month before. The daily requirement at 90 per cent PLF (operating ratio) is 30,000 tonnes, thereby reducing the coal stock to three to fourdays.
“The demand is very high currently and all the units are running at 90 per cent PLF. Coupled with the protest at the mine is the upcoming monsoon, which hits supply every year. The matter needs to be resolved before that,” said an executive, requesting anonymity.
Kahalgaon has 11 days coal supply, shows data from the Central Electricity Authority. Executives there did not respond to queries. It supplies to West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Sikkim. Farakka supplies to West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam, Tripura and the Damodar Valley Corporation.