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Critical technology development and mechanisation issues could pose a serious challenge to Coal India Ltd’s efforts to bridge the increasing gap between coal demand and domestic coal supply.

The Ministry of Coal had asked CIL to increase its coal production from the current level of about 500 million tonnes to 1,000 million tonnes by 2019-20. CIL projects an overburden removal of 2,500 million cubic metres by 2019-20 as against 1,000 million cubic metres currently. The average stripping ratio is expected to go up from the current level of 1.8 to 2.75 in 2019-20.

The target set by the Ministry of Coal for CIL is largely dependent on use of modern equipment and technologies. For strengthening exploration, CIL plans to use more hydrostatic drill rigs and adopt 2D & 3D seismic surveys with high resolution and advanced software tools for geological modelling and mine planning. In order to enhance coal production, the central PSU will use high capacity earthmoving equipment for OB removal and coal extraction, adopt in pit crushing technology for OB and coal, deploy surface miners and extensively use high capacity graders and dozers for proper maintenance of haul roads. It will rely upon high angle conveyers, skip conveyers and tube conveyers for transportation of coal from pit to surface and set up more coal handling plants with large capacity silos for faster loading of coal into the wagons. The maintenance issues will be addressed through upgradation of the existing workshops to enable condition monitoring of equipment.

CIL plans to enhance coal production from underground mines through adoption of high speed drivage equipment for shaft sinking and incline drivage. Deployment of high capacity continuous miners, low height continuous miners for thin seams, flexible conveyor trains and high capacity shuttle cars as well as adoption of power supported longwall/shortwall technology are also envisaged. With a view to improving productivity, the company intends to adopt highwall technology and hydraulic mining, use raise borer for winning steep seams and extensively use manriding systems, skip loading and belt conveyors. The handheld drills are likely to be replaced with universal drilling machines/hydraulic drills/jumbo drills as part of the productivity improvement initiative.

The Ministry of Coal in association with the Indian National Committee of World Mining Congress recently organised a one-day workshop in New Delhi on technology development and mechanisation of mines in CIL. Held in the backdrop of the one billion tonne coal production target, the event was attended by the coal secretary, senior officials from CIL and its subsidiary companies, several equipment manufacturers and members of World Mining Congress.

During the workshop, officials from the coal companies highlighted the challenges being encountered in improving productivity. Most of the concerns raised were with regard to performance of equipment supplied by various manufacturers, long lead time for supply and commissioning of equipment, delays in supply of spare parts, poor quality of service extended by OEMs, limited number of high capacity equipment suppliers and absence of indigenous capabilities for manufacturing equipment.

CIL has projected requirement of heavy earthmoving machinery for opencast mines and equipment for underground mines in the next five years.

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