Talcher Coalfields in Odisha is in the midst of a political quagmire which has brought its production to a halt.
Asia’s largest coal mine, with a daily average production of 300,000 tonnes, is facing protests from local people and political parties over a mine accident. A week of shut down has adversely impacted the revenue of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) — the Coal India subsidiary operating the mine.
“As on date, the company has incurred cumulative operational losses of up to 2.1 million tonnes of coal and 2.42 million tonnes of despatch. Its coal value loss stands at Rs 213.60 crore,” MCL said in a statement.
Power units are bearing the brunt, too, as coal supply is stuck for a week now. NTPC’s 3,000 Mw Kaniha power plant, near the mine, has closed down four of its six units. For the remaining units, MCL diverted 14,000 tonnes of coal from its other mine IB Valley but it’s not enough, said a plant executive. The plant is running at a load of 700 Mw. NTPC executive said the plant is incurring Rs 11 crore loss daily due to lack of coal.
MCL, in its latest statement, said major power plants in south India belonging to APGENCO and APPDCL in Andhra Pradesh, TANGEDCO, Neyvelli Lignite Corporation and NTEL in Tamil Nadu and KPCL in Karnataka have reported depleting coal stocks.
The crisis started with a mine accident, where 13 labours were trapped in the debris that fell on them while mining activity was on. Of those stuck, four lost their lives. Since then, both the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have been protesting. Earlier, a BJP member of Parliament from Angul district asked for doubling compensation to the affected families. MCL is looking into the request and will take more than a week to take a decision, said an executive. The company said it has provided compensation as legally stipulated.
Meanwhile, a BJD MP and his supporters along with the locals have refused to end their strike. The protest is over land acquisition for expansion of the mine, the same issue which has been a pain point for MCL for over a year now.
A senior executive said, “As we didn’t have surplus land for mining, we had to do it through the vertical mode. Reason for this accident is not having enough land to make steps which is a safer option. We have disbursed compensation to all residents and yet they refuse to leave the site”. The development is part of a series of political unrests that MCL has been facing in Odisha. In June last year, it faced a labour strike that was led by an MLA. In January this year, another a “politically motivated” strike at two of its mines Talcher and IB Valley paralysed operations again, said an executive. The paper could not contact the MPs leading the current protest.
MCL’s IB Valley and Talcher mines have the highest coal reserves in the country. MCL contributes the highest – 25 per cent – to Coal India’s total production.