[Answered]What are the major varieties of coal in India? Discuss various issues associated with coal mining in India?

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Types of coal found in India. Various issues associated with coal mining in India.

Conclusion. Way forward.

India holds the 5th biggest coal reserves in the world. Around 7% of the world’s proven coal reserves are located in India. It is found in sedimentary rocks and is formed over millions of years through geological pressure. Although the heat value of coal reserves in our country (Gross Calorific Value), is lower than that of international coal reserves, Coal still remains the main source of energy in India. It fulfils almost 67% of the total commercial energy consumed in the country.

 Types of coal found in India:

Types of coal on the basis of carbon content Types of coal on the basis of a time period
Anthracite: It is the highest grade of coal containing a high percentage of 80 to 95% carbon content. It is hard and brittle. It is found in smaller quantities in regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Gondwana coal: Around 98% of India’s total coal reserves are from Gondwana times. This coal was formed about 250 million years ago.
Bituminous: It is a medium grade of coal having high heating capacity and carries 60 to 80% of carbon content and a low level of moisture content. It is the most commonly used type of coal for electricity generation in India. Most bituminous coal is found in Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. Tertiary coal: It is of younger age. It was formed from 15 to 60 million years ago.

 

Lignite: It is the lowest grade coal with the least carbon content.  It carries 40 to 55% carbon content. It is found in the regions of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu & Kashmir.  
Peat: It has less than 40% carbon content. It is in the first stage of transformation from wood to coal. It has low calorific value and burns like wood.  

Various issues associated with coal mining in India:

  1. Uneven coal distribution: Coal distribution is highly uneven throughout India. Most of the coal deposits occur in the north-eastern part of the Indian peninsula. Other parts of the country either have no coal deposits or limited reserves of poor quality coal.
  2. Poor transportation: Most coal lies in inaccessible areas of the country. Hence, transporting it to the location of its use posed additional challenges. Though trains are the most economical way of transporting coal, a large number of mines are not connected to a rail network. Thus, coal has to bear a very high cost of transportation from the mines to the consuming centres.
  3. Manual labour: The coal mining techniques are old and outdated and most of the work is done through manual labour. This leads to high production costs in India. The burning of coal in factories and thermal plants releases many toxic gases which are harmful for labour. For example, the recent collapse in the coal mine of Meghalaya led to the death of 11 workers.
  4. Delays in receiving approval and clearances: Environment and forest clearance are extremely cumbersome, involving numerous layers of bureaucracy. The process of seeking clearances is a long drawn process involving central and state ministries, and sometimes also lack clarity. This causes significant delays in production from the allotted blocks.
  5. Poor quality of captive blocks offered to private players: The blocks offered to private players for captive mining are of poor quality and are generally not good. The blocks are often located in remote and undeveloped areas, which have challenging geographies. Sometimes the blocks are not divided scientifically.
  6. Opaque & flawed policies: The process of allocation of captive coal blocks has been a source of controversies in the sector. This induced subjectivity in the process of allocation. There is lack of accountability and transparency, weak planning and inter-agency coordination. The recent coal-gate scam was the outcome of such opaqueness.

Way forward:

  1. Transparency: Currently, it is not easy to obtain data or information regarding many aspects of the coal sector. This makes it difficult for citizens to demand accountability from the sector. Therefore, complete transparency in the form of regular publication of information related to all aspects of the sector is needed. This would help in improving accountability.
  2. Better policies: It is important to increase the level of public participation and inputs in decision making. All policies must be published in draft form and must be finalised after comments are invited from citizens and the feedback is incorporated.
  3. Local involvement: Local citizens must be involved in coal mining related activities. Before the mine starts, there should be meaningful public hearing processes regarding environmental and social impacts, and associated compensation mechanisms. During the mine’s operation, local citizens can help to oversee the operations and ensure its compliance to existing norms.
  4. Rehabilitation: Innovative approaches such as long-term lease of land, offering equity should be tried in rehabilitation processes. Proper compensation must be ensured to the displaced people.
  5. Strengthening Institutions: The capacity of the relevant institutions must be enhanced. Plans must be developed to increase capacities of coal industry. This would help in improving the planning, operations and oversight of the sector.

India is taking many steps to gradually reduce its dependence on coal, though coal will remain an important part of the energy resource for the short and medium term. Thus, it is critical to address the challenges of the coal sector.

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