As the Indian coal sector ramps up production (from about a billion tonnes now to 1.5 billion tonnes by 2030), the sector will need a lot of mining equipment – a lucrative opportunity for manufacturers to make them in India. These are machineries such as rope shovels, dumpers, dozers, motor graders, front-end loaders and wheel dozers — all monstrous, high-capacity equipment. These are for opencast coal mines. 

Underground (UG) coal mining offers another compelling opportunity. Because production from UG mines is less environmentally disruptive, the government is keen to raise it from about 25 million tonnes (mt) today to about 100 mt in the next few years. UG mines again need substantial machinery, mainly ‘continuous miners’. 

Make them in India: This was the message that the Coal Secretary, Amrit Lal Meena, gave a ‘stakeholders meeting’ of representatives from mining equipment companies here on Saturday.  

Mining equipment

Coal India Ltd, the country’s biggest coal miner, today has 4,747 pieces of major mining equipment; it will need 9,361 more, as it ramps up production from 780 mt in 2023-24 to 1,300 mt by 2029-30.  

B Veera Reddy, Director (Technical), Coal India, said in his presentation that the country would need 20,155 pieces of equipment by 2030. The meet was attended by industry representatives including from BEML, Caterpillar, Tata-Hitachi, Komatsu, L&T, Gainwell, Sandvik and EIMCO Elecon. 

Prabhat Mittal of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, a Swedish MNC, said that the company was interested in investing in India to make ‘continuous miners’ (CMs) for UG mining. Referring to Coal India’s projected demand of 195 CMs by 2030, Mittal said that these machines called for 15,000-20,000 skilled jobs to operate and maintain them. He said that Sandvik was interested in lending its expertise to set up training institutes to create the skilled manpower. Sandvik’s competitor, BSE-listed EIMCO Elecon, also said that it would produce CMs.  

Yasunori Fujii, Managing Director, Komatsu India Pvt Ltd, a Japanese construction equipment manufacturer which has a factory in Oragadam near Chennai, said that India, like Indonesia, should shift to biodiesel-powered mining equipment, which Komatsu could produce. Calling it a “valid point”, Reddy said that Coal India would consider it.  

Earlier, giving an overview of the coal sector, Secretary Meena said that the Ministry of Coal, in consultation with the Ministry of Railways, recently came out with a ‘comprehensive coal logistics plan’. Once implemented, power plants could get their coal supplies ‘just in time’, he said.