Coal India goes for makeover

By: | Published: June 3, 2015 12:05 AM

Ensconced in a spiffy new building, coal behemoth vows by technology to raise output

Coal India Limited (CIL) has moved its headquarters from nearly a century-old Coal Bhawan to a swanky, 2.7 lakh-square-feet office in Kolkata last month. With that, the state-run coal miner is also striving to shed its reputation as a perennial under-performer, buoyed by an unprecedented production growth of nearly 7% in FY15.

The Maharatna PSU’s production of nearly 30 million tonne in FY15 was more than the aggregate output increase in the previous four years. Higher production, of course, had a soothing effect on coal shortage in power plants. CEA data for April showed that only 11 out of 100 coal-powered plants were running on coal stock of less than eight days compared to nearly 65 plants just six months before.

In a bid to keep the promise of attaining a target of one billion tonne (bt) coal production mark by 2019-20 earlier this year, the coal mining monolith unveiled a road map earlier this year. But the target requires the company’s production to grow at a rate it has never experienced before.

With the coal demand of the country projected to touch 1,200 million tonnes (mt) by 2019-20, at an envisaged growth rate of 7%, CIL is expected to chip in with one bt, of which 908 mt is the expected contribution from the identified projects.

The production target hinges on two CIL subsidiaries, Sambalpur-based Mahanadi Coalfields Limited and the Bilaspur-based South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL). The expected production from these two fields is 250 mt and 240 mt, respectively.

Apart from production, evacuation has been a thorn in the flesh of the company. It is estimated that due to limited or no rail connectivity and unavailability of rakes for some fields, the company fails to provide nearly 200 mt of mined coal to its customers.

Evacuation is expected to improve with initiatives taken by the government to bring the state governments, the Railways and Coal India—often working at cross purposes—together for the timely completion of three critical railway lines.

To help evacuation, CIL would purchase 2,000 railway wagons on its own, and a fund has been set aside for this.

Coordination with the Railways for implementation has started, with SECL creating two special purpose vehicles (SPVs) with the state governments to develop rail networks, including last mile connectivity, by involving the Railways. Another SPV between Coal India, the Railways and the government of Jharkhand was signed earlier this

month for the critical Tori-Shivpur-Kathotia line.

Although land acquisition remains a hurdle in starting new projects, Coal India is banking on the central government to expedite acquisition and environmental clearances. For now, its focus remains firmly on existing projects.

The coal project monitoring group (CPMG) portal, created by the coal ministry for regular monitoring of project related issues with different ministries and state authorities, is expected to clear inter-departmental bottlenecks to speed up decision-making.

The company plans to aggressively bank on technology for growth. Strategies for the future include technology upgradation in opencast mines with high capacity equipment and adoption of operator-independent truck dispatch system, vehicle tracking system through GPS/GPRS, coal handling plants (CHPs) and SILOS for faster loading and monitoring using laser scanners.

In underground mines, CIL seeks to improve productivity through measures like deployment of continuous miner technology on a large scale, long-wall technology at select places, man riding system in major mines and tele-monitoring techniques.

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