“Coal India can elevate production to mandated levels if demand is conducive”
Coal Insights|February 2021
Coal India Ltd. has its work cut out to expand its production capacity by opening new mines and leveraging ‘digital technology’ to enhance performance from its existing projects.

Additionally, the state-owned miner faces the stupendous task of substituting imports of thermal coal and also diversifying into new areas like aluminum and solar power. Pramod Agrawal, chairman-cum-managing director, Coal India Ltd., in an exclusive interview to Arindam Bandyopadhyay, charts out the way ahead for the world’s largest coal miner, confiding that CIL would remain a valuable company and a company with values in years to come.

At the outset, let me extend our best wishes to you and Coal India for 2021. What has been your experience in leading the world’s largest coal company so far?

So far the experience has been challenging and satisfying. Leading a company of the magnitude of Coal India (CIL) is a constant learning curve.

The company has an invisible yet undeniable presence in most of the industrial sectors of the country. CIL has an indelible significance in the country’s energy, economic and social fronts. It contributes to around 83 percent of the nation’s entire coal output. I don’t think there is any other industry or company that single-handedly adds to that humongous share to such particular product.

About 67 percent of India’s coal-based power generation comes from supplies linked to Coal India’s coal. We are one of the highest contributors to the government exchequer – both Centre and states through dividend, corporate tax and a slew of other duties and levies. But, Coal India also has a uniqueness beyond its numbers. Apart from our core operations we are also one of the largest spenders on Corporate Social Responsibility, which touches the lives of large sections of the society.

Leading a company imbued with such multiple hues is certainly a matter of pride.

What are your major mining projects in the pipeline currently?

Our major emphasis is on brownfield projects and going forward, in the subsequent years this is where our production would come from. We are focused on maximizing our production with minimal ecological disturbance.

CIL’s major mining projects constitute 35 opencast mines which contribute to more than 70 percent of the total annual coal output. During the last fiscal these mines at around 434 million tons (mt) accounted for 72 percent of the total production of 602 mt. We constantly monitor the progress of these mines. This year so far these large mines have contributed 75 percent of the total output.

Plans are on the anvil for leveraging ‘digital technology’ as an accelerator for performance enhancement of selected mines of the company. It would also enable transformation across business value chains. A tender has already been issued in the context. Seven high capacity opencast mines from two subsidiaries of CIL have been selected and put under two clusters.

Three mines, namely Kusmunda, Gevra and Dipka from SECL and Nigahi, Jayant, Dudhichua and Khadia from NCL form the two clusters.

The idea is to fit together and use the available data analytics techniques and other technologies to raise mine productivity and efficiency levels at lower costs while extracting as much coal as possible. Learning from the outcome of the experiment we will adopt it further in our large mines.

Standing close to the end deadline of 202324, how confident are you about achieving 1 billion tons of coal production, which entails an incremental output of around 350 million tons in 3 years’ time? How feasible is it to produce 100 mt more every year?

We have the wherewithal to elevate our production to the mandated levels if the conditions are conducive. We are vigorously pursuing for green clearances, both environmental and forestry, which is beginning to show results. The Hon’ble Coal Minister is taking keen interest in facilitating the conditions and the Ministry of Coal is lending its support in overcoming the constraints like possession of land and statutory clearances.

We have identified high-yielding mines and are adopting newer technologies to ramp up our production. We have already initiated process for operating 15 mines through the Mine Developer Operator model having an ultimate capacity of 159 mt per annum (mtpa). Our procurement for heavy earthmoving machinery is on fast track and we have placed several important orders which would help elevate our opencast production.

CIL shall be adding capacity of about 310 mtpa through approval of new and expansion projects by 2023-24. Smaller subsidiaries like Eastern Coalfields Ltd & Bharat Coking Coal Ltd are enhancing their capacity through marginal schemes and OC patches.

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