India is the third largest producer of hard coal in the world, next only to China and USA. Coal production in the country registered nearly ten-fold increase from 30 million tonnes in 1947 to 298.97 million tonnes in 1999-2000
Coal resources were estimated at 37.11 billion tonnes (bt) at the time of Independence, down to the depth of 600 metres. In 1972, when the coal mines were nationalised, resources were estimated at 81 bt (out of which 61 bt was non-coking coal), at 600 meter depth. As per the latest estimate of Geological Survey of India (GSI), coal resources in the country are 211.59 billion tonnes, upto the depth of 1200 metres. Out of this, proven resources are 82.39 billion tonnes. Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh account for 96% of the coal resources in the country. Jharia coalfield of Bihar is the main source of prime coking coal in India with 46.14 bt reserve.
History of coal mining in India dates back to 1744, when it was first mined in the Raniganj coalfields in West Bengal. However, the foundation for mass coal production in India was laid in 1886, when the Hyderabad Deccan Company was incorporated to exploit coal in Yellanadi area in Andhra Pradesh. The company was later renamed as SCCL and brought under Government control in 1945.
Annual Production in India was stagnant at 70 million tonnes during the late Sixties and early Seventies. After nationalisation of coal mines, the coal sector recorded steady growth. Today, two public sector companies Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) produce 96% of the coal in India. Out of the total 300.09 million tonnes production in 1999-2000, CIL produced - 260.69 million tonnes (86.9%),SCCL - 27.56 million tonnes (9.2%) and other companies including TISCO, IISCO, DVC Bengal EMTA -11.84 million tonnes (3.9%).
Recognising the importance of coal in the national economy and massive investment needed to meet the huge demand, coal industry was nationalised in two phases. Coking coal mines except the captive mines of TISCO and IISO were taken over in 1971 and nationalised in 1972. All non-coking coal mines were nationalised in 1973. Coal India Limited (CIL) was set up in 1975 to manage nationalised coal mines in the country.
CIL now has eight subsidiaries, seven being production companies and the Central Mines Planning and Design Institute Ltd. (CMPDIL) as an engineering design and exploration institute. The seven production companies are Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), Central Coalfields Ltd. (CCL), Western Coalfields Ltd. (WCL), Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), Northern Coalfields Ltd. (NCL), South Eastern Coalfields Ltd.(SECL), and Mahanandi Coalfields Ltd. (MCL). North-Eastern Coalfields (NEC) is not a subsidiary but a unit directly controlled by CIL. CIL, with a capital of Rs. 8904 crore(89.04 billion), earned a profit of Rs. 14.5 billion in 1998-99.
BCCL, with headquarters at Dhanbad, in Bihar is a major producer of prime coking coal (raw and washed). It has 87 working mines under its control. CCL with headquarters at Ranchi in Bihar, has seven nationalised mines, which produce non-coking coal, soft, and hard coke besides medium coking coal. ECL, with headquarters at Sanctoria in West Bengal, covers the Raniganj Coalfields in West Bengal and Mugma, Rajmahal Coalfields in Bihar. It has 122 working mines. WCL, headquartered at Nagpur (Maharashtra) covers coalfields in Maharashtra and some in Madhya Pradesh through its network of 87 mines. SECL, with headquarters at Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh is the leading producer among the CIL subsidiaries with 87 mines. MCL, the company with its headquarters at Sambalpur (Orissa) covers Talcher and Ib Valley Coalfields in Orissa having 22 mines. NEC with headquarters at Margherita has 6 mines.
Singareni Colleries Company Ltd. (SCCL)
SCCL with its headquarters at Kothagudem in Andhra Pradesh is a joint undertaking of Government of Andhra Pradesh and Government of India. There are 69 working mines under SCCL, in four districts of Andhra Pradesh. With one lakh (0.1 million) employees, it is the only coal company in South India and caters to the needs of power, cement and all other coal based Industries spread over the Southern States. Today Singareni produces about 10 per cent of the countrys coal production.
Private Sector Participation
Under Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, coal mining is exclusively reserved for public sector companies. However captive mining by private sector companies for production of Iron and Steel, power and cement and also sub leasing of coal mines to private parties are permitted. In all, 26 parties in private and public sector have been offered captive coal blocks. Some companies have already started coal mining. A Bill to amend the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 for allowing exploitation of new coal and lignite reserves by private sector firms along with the public sector companies without the existing restriction on the captive consumption has already been introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 24.4.2000.
India has set up Joint Working Groups with UK, France, China, Germany, erstwhile USSR, Canada and Australia to identify areas and projects for bilateral cooperation. The inflow of Foreign Direct Investment is expected to double within the next two years. The Sixth Session of Indo-China Working Group was held recently at Beijing on 15th-17th February, 2000. Both sides agreed to implement cooperation in the following aspects.
Export and Import
India makes coal available to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. CIL exported 0.06 million tonnes of coal during 1999-2000. India imported about 15 (Estimated) million tonnes of coal in 1999-2000.
Distribution & Marketing
Main consumers of coal are Power-houses, Steel plants, Cement Industry and Fertilizer Industry. Almost 84 per cent of the total production is consumed by these sectors. The price and disribution of all varieties of coal has been deregulated from January, 2000. Coal and Lignite were delicensed in July 1998.
Lignite reserves in the country are approximately 27.45 billion tonnes. Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd. (NLC), a public sector undertaking with headquarters at Neyveli in Tamil Nadu is engaged in exploitation of lignite deposits in that State. Apart from this, M/s. Rajasthan State Mineral Development Corporation is also engaged in exploitation of lignite deposits in Rajasthan. M/s. GIPCL is also engaged in generation of power by exploiting lignite deposits in Gujarat. NLC has two lignite mines with a total installed capacity of 17 million tonnes, two thermal power stations, a fertilizer plant and a briquetting and carbonisation plant.
NLC has been consistently making profits. The net profit after tax of NLC for the financial year 1999-2000 was Rs. 419.47 crore against the targetted profit of Rs. 211.58 crore. In 1998-99, the net profit after tax was Rs. 575.36 crore. Lignite production in 1999-2000 was 175.51 lakh tonnes. Power export was 1125 million units in the same period.