Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi on Wednesday said that the Ministry is working on all fronts, including increasing production from commercial and captive mines, in a bid to stop imports of the critical commodity by FY26.

After launching the eight round of commercial coal mines virtually, Joshi said that all efforts are on to stop coal import by 2025-26, which will be achieved through a series of reforms initiated by the Ministry.

The Minister also said that coal production from underground mines (UG) will be further scaled up to touch 100 million tonnes (mt) by 2030, by deploying mass production technology.

Commercial mining

The 39 coal blocks that are being auctioned in the eight round are spread across Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar.

These mines come under the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act (CMSP) and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR).

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Out of the 39 mines, four blocks are being offered under 2nd attempt of 7th round under CMSP/MMDR Act, where single bids were received in the first attempt. Of the 35 coal mines being offered under the 8th round, 16 coal mines are new ones and 19 mines are being rolled over from earlier tranches.

The commencement of sale of tender documents for auction shall start from November 15 (Wednesday). The auction shall be held online through a transparent two stage process on the basis of percentage revenue share.

SBI Capital Markets is the sole transaction advisor to the Ministry for the commercial coal mine auctions and is assisting in conducting the auction process.

Coal Secretary Amrit Lal Meena said that captive/commercial coal mines are contributing significantly to the overall production. He emphasised that systematic surveys were carried out before offering the 39 mines for auction.

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For speedy evacuation of coal from mines, rail connectivity is being augmented, he added.

Additional Secretary and Nominated Authority M Nagaraju emphasised on the need for further enhancing domestic coal production. He highlighted that a series of reforms have been initiated by the Ministry recently. Domestic coal demand will be increasing in the coming decades too. Therefore, investment in the coal sector offers good returns, he added.

Underground mining

Later speaking to the reporters, Meena said the Ministry seeks to enhance production from underground coal mines to 100 mt by 2030 from the current 26 MR annually.

“Such mines have already been identified. We had constituted a high level committee to suggest policy measures to promote underground mining. The committee has submitted its report, the recommendations of the committee are with the ministry. They are under different discussion stages and we will shortly come out with a suitable policy framework,” he added.

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The Secretary also emphasised that the environmental impact of underground mining is lower compared to open cast mining as large scale deforestation is not required and displacement of people is significantly lesser too.

“The idea is that the impact on the environment from underground coal mines is minimised because in open cast mines we have to remove the entire forest cover. Loss of agricultural land is also involved. But in underground coal mines, because of the technologies available now, the forest cover is not required to be removed. There is minimal displacement of people,” Meena said.