The company has so far extracted 1.7 BT of coal from Moher, which lies in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh, with a small part falling in the Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.
Having joined the club of coalfields with an output in excess of 100 MT in the last fiscal, the Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL) – a subsidiary of the Coal India Ltd (CIL)—is looking to take its operations to the next level with deployment of about 60% of its FY20 capital expenditure of Rs 1,235 crore on purchase of new mining equipment that would boost efficiency and ensure higher volumes.
With a coal production target of 106.3 MT in FY20, CIL’s third largest coal producer would be spending around Rs 700 crore in the fiscal on large-size heavy earth moving machines (HEMMs) such as dumpers, hydraulic shovels and dozers, to significantly reduce the operational time for mining operations—tenders are being finalised for the procurement at present. “The company will easily achieve the 106.3-MT production target for FY20,” Prabhat Kumar Sinha, CMD, NCL, tells FE. Its output of 101.5 MT of coal in FY19 represented annual growth of 9.1%.
Though Singrauli Coalfields, NCL’s primary site, has an area of about 2,202 sq km, the company’s mining operations are concentrated at present in the Moher sub-basin which is spread over 312 sq km – despite accounting for a small portion of CIL’s total area under production, it contributed 17% of the national miner’s total output in FY19. The Singrauli main basin (1,890 sq km) lies in the western part of the coalfields and is largely unexplored. NCL has estimated coal reserves of 10.1 billion tonnes (BT), of which 6.8 BT is in the Moher sub-basin and 3.3 BT in the main basin. The company has so far extracted 1.7 BT of coal from Moher, which lies in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh, with a small part falling in the Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.
The need for state-of-the-art mining equipment is greater in the case of NCL given the depth of coal seams at its mines, which necessitate removal of huge amounts of soil (overburden in technical terms) to reach the coal surface. To put it into perspective, NCL had to remove more than 318 million cubic metres of overburden to produce 101.5 MT coal in FY19, making it the largest volume handling company of CIL.
To operate its 10 mechanised opencast mines, the company already deploys a large fleet of draglines and some of the largest size shovel-dumper combinations. It is this mechanisation that is said to be behind its relatively small manpower strength—14,456, the lowest among CIL’s subsidiaries. In 2015, the company commissioned at its Khadia mine ‘Somnath’—the largest dragline owned by CIL—which is capable of excavating 30 cubic metres of soil in one scoop. To reduce imports and ramp up production, CIL plans to spend more than Rs 7,000 crore by FY22 to buy six draglines, 31 shovels, 300 dumpers and 47 dozers.
NCL is targetting an output of 115 MT by FY24, since the Indian Railways is expected by then to create adequate infrastructure to transport the coal to other parts of the country. The existing evacuation facility allows NCL to annually transport only 69 MT of coal to thermal plants close to its mines. As much as 17 MT of coal is transported by road at present, a channel whose share the company is planning to reduce gradually given environmental concerns. Expansion of rail capacity is expected to allow evacuation of another 40 MT of coal from NCL’s mines. The 39-km Karela-Shaktinagar line was completed recently. In advanced stages of implementation are the 64-km Chopan-Singrauli and the 262-km Singrauli-Katni line projects. “We can increase our production by 1.5 times when these railway tracks are operationalised,” Sinha says.