New Delhi, Sep 3: As the government gradually plans to shift towards renewable energy in the coming years, the reality on the ground is that India’s dependency on coal is not going to end anytime soon, especially considering the disruptions in supply chains globally owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Coal Ministry also has plans to diversify and set up new thermal power plants including two in Odisha (Talabira and Mahanadi Basin) and one in Madhya Pradesh (Amarkantak).
However, even the coal ministry is diversifying towards greener options to help the Centre achieve its net zero emission target.
In a detailed interview with IANS, secretary in the coal ministry Amrit Lal Meena spoke at length on various initiatives in the sector as well as on its plan to enter newer fields and the ongoing commercial coal blocks auctions.
Q: The coal ministry has prepared a multi modal connectivity plan. What exactly does it entail?
A: Currently around 62 per cent of coal is transported by rail, 20 per cent by road and 18 per cent is moved through conveyor belts.
Railway is the most cost effective and environment friendly medium of transporting coal. Therefore to strengthen rail infrastructure in coal producing states, there is a mandate under PM Gatishakti to allow user ministries to make plans according to their requirements to ensure cost effectiveness and fill gaps to reduce logistics costs.
So after discussing with stakeholders, we prepared an integrated coal logistics plan and after superimposing ongoing railway and coal mines projects, identified gaps in coal transportation. We have highlighted these gaps and duly informed the railway ministry.
As of now, 13 rail projects are going on to augment railway infrastructure (for carrying coal), namely in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Three of them are complete, while all 13 of them will be completed by 2025. Once this is done, the trunk rail infrastructure will be expanded for coal evacuation.
For these 13 projects, Coal India Limited (CIL) has pooled in its resources with the railway ministry and has invested Rs 15,000 crore in collaboration with IRCON and results have been satisfactory.
However, since many new coal mines of the coal ministry are coming up and several of them have been given to private operators, we have identified gaps and resultantly around 26 new railway projects have been shared with the railway ministry, which has incorporated them in its annual plan.
Q: When will these 26 railway projects be completed?
A: These 26 projects have been phased as per our immediate requirement as well as for futuristic use.
With this, now both coal and railway ministries have completed their planning for infrastructure needed to meet coal evacuation requirements till 2047, based on the principles of PM GatiShakti.
Q: Out of these 26 projects, which of them are critical projects?
A: Around 10 of them are critical, to be done on priority and will be completed within the next three years. These projects will fulfill trunk connectivity requirement of coal transportation.
Q: Can you elaborate on first mile connectivity projects?
A: For ensuring first mile connectivity, coal and railway ministries’ subsidiaries are working jointly, to make spur lines and sidings from main railway lines till coal mines. This work is being funded by CIL and the construction work is being done by railway ministry subsidiaries.
The second aspect is to transport coal from mines to loading point. This till now this is being done by trucks, which entails a lot of cost and leads to pollution.
We have made a plan, wherein in our 67 larger mines, which produce more than 2 million tonnes of coal, the dry fuel will be loaded from the production point and transported through conveyor belt to the railway wagon.
Out of these 67 projects, we have rolled out eight projects, 27 projects will be rolled out this year and during the next fiscal, while the remaining project will be rolled out by 2026. The total cost in these 67 first mile projects will come to Rs 13,000 crore.
Q: Coal ministry also has plans to diversify and set up thermal power plants. What exactly is the roadmap?
A: The power ministry plans to set up some more thermal plants in the country, and since we have coal, land and water, the coal ministry has decided to build three pithead thermal power plants.
One of these will be set up in Talabira in Odisha, which will be built by Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and it will have 2,400 megawatt capacity. The second will be Mahanadi Basin thermal power plant in Odisha, which will also be of 2,400 MW capacity and is being developed by Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL).
The third thermal power plant will be the Amarkantak power plant, in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh government. South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) and Madhya Pradesh Power Generating Company Ltd (MPGENCO) will jointly execute this project, which is a 660 MW plant.
All the three projects are in advanced stages of initiation and de-coaled land is being identified for them. Land where a mine has closed down after operation is called de-coaled land.
Q: How are the commercial coal mines auction plans progressing?
A: Though we have a huge reserve of mines, we have found that those mines where there are difficulties like connectivity issues, and which have dense habitations around them and are big size mines, don’t find any takers. So we have done a comprehensive exercise of all our mines and determined that 44 mines are those which will find takers, while 54 are difficult mines which may not find buyers.
For 44 accessible mines, we have asked for inserting a drone video in their dossiers while offering them for auction, in order to give an idea of their topography to prospective bidders. A final dossier for these 44 mines will be created by September 15.
Once this is done, the eighth round of auction will be conducted by the end of September, where around 50 mines will be offered for auction, which will also include the 44 mines.
Q: Does the ongoing auction process also include those 204 mines whose allocation was cancelled by the Supreme Court in 2014?
A: The 204 mines were those which till 2014 had been auctioned by the coal ministry and irregularities were found in them. So when the question of auction arose for those mines (whose allocation was cancelled by the Supreme Court), we drafted the Coal Mines Special Provision Act.
In addition to this, we had several other blocks, which were not in these 204 reserves. These are called Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act blocks. Both these sets of blocks are being parallely auctioned.
So the 92 blocks which we have auctioned till now in seven rounds of auction in recent months, include both these sets of coal reserves.
Among the 204 blocks, there are several mines which we have offered for auction under several rounds, but have not found any takers as many of them have deep forest and difficult terrain.
So we are identifying new areas, where there are lesser challenges and are getting them drilled for creating new mines with the aim of offering them for auction. (IANS)