Polavarapu Mallikharjuna Prasad, who has been recommended by the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PSEB) to head Coal India (CIL), is a mining veteran with more than three decades of experience in operations and management.

Prasad will take over at the world’s single largest coal producer and one of the largest corporate employers from serving CMD Pramod Agrawal, who retires on June 30.

Given his extensive experience with opencast and underground mines, particularly around the Talcher area — the largest store for power grade coal in India — Prasad is well qualified to meet CIL’s ambitious production targets.

The mining behemoth has a target of 780 million tonnes (mt) in FY24 including 610 mt to meet India’s power demand. India’s electricity consumption is rising at almost 6-7 per cent per annum and coal accounts for more than half of the power produced.

Prasad has worked with Mahanadi Coalfields (MCL), a top producer for CIL. He has also headed Bharat Coking Coal (BCCL) and currently leads Central Coalfields (CCL) — two entities that account for a lion’s share of India’s coking coal output. Coking coal, a key ingredient in steel making, is imported in sizable quantities every year due to low domestic reserves. That apart, his handling of BCCL during the Covid-19 pandemic has been widely appreciated.

Proven track record

Prasad’s educational background is again in mining, particularly in Opencast. Early in his career, while employed with Western Coalfields (WCL), he played a key role in reopening the Durgapur Rayyatwari Colliery which was affected by underground fires. He was awarded the best mines manager in 1995 for his efforts.

As a general manager with MCL, Prasad was responsible for the successful opening of the Kaniha opencast project in March 2010. He is also credited for diversion of the nallah at Hingula opencast area in 2015 unlocking 26 mt of reserves and commencement of railway siding at Talcher coalfields.

Prasad has been instrumental in raising CIL’s coking coal production, which grew over 17 per cent y-o-y to 54.6 mt in FY23. Another lesser-known fact about Prasad is his experience with the mine developer and operator (MDO) model, which the government is now focusing on to increase output. During his stint with NTPC (May 2015), Prasad was acknowledged for expediting MDO projects and awarding the Pakri Barwadih coal block (NTPC’s first project).