Coal India's Plans For One Of The World's Largest Mines Hit Roadblock As Locals Protest In Chhattisgarh

Coal India's Plans For One Of The World's Largest Mines Hit Roadblock As Locals Protest In Chhattisgarh

Plan to create one of world's biggest coal mines in Chhattisgarh challenged by residents



Coal India Ltd., the world's largest coal producer, is facing opposition from local residents over its plan to expand the Gevra coal mine in Chhattisgarh, which would become one of the world's biggest coal mines if approved.

The Gevra mine, located in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh, has an annual capacity of 45 million tons and produces about 10% of Coal India's output. The company wants to increase its capacity to 70 million tons by acquiring more land and deploying more machinery.

However, the expansion plan has met with resistance from the residents of the area, who have raised concerns over the environmental and social impacts of the project. They have cited issues such as air pollution, depletion of ground water levels, displacement of villagers and inadequate compensation for land acquisition.

A public hearing was held on June 7, 2023 at the Gevra site, where representatives of Coal India and its subsidiary South Eastern Coalfields Ltd. (SECL), which operates the mine, tried to address the grievances of the locals. They claimed that the company has taken measures to reduce pollution, conserve water and provide jobs and compensation to the affected people.

However, the locals were not satisfied with the responses and demanded more concrete action from the company. They also questioned the need for expanding coal production at a time when India is facing a climate crisis and has committed to reduce its carbon emissions.

Coal India argues that coal is still essential for meeting India's growing energy demand and ensuring energy security. The company aims to produce one billion tons of coal by 2023-24 and has identified several projects for expansion and modernization.

The Gevra expansion plan is still awaiting environmental clearance from the central government. The fate of the project will depend on how Coal India balances its economic interests with the environmental and social concerns of the stakeholders.

Coal mining impacts in India

Coal mining in India is faced with several challenges, including:

- Environmental degradation: Coal mining has a significant impact on the environment, including air, water, and soil pollution. Mining activities can cause deforestation, soil erosion, land subsidence, and the destruction of wildlife habitats. Coal combustion also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
- Health hazards: Coal mining is associated with several health hazards, including respiratory diseases, skin diseases, hearing loss, and accidents. Coal miners are exposed to dust, noise, vibration, and toxic substances that can affect their physical and mental health. Coal-fired power plants also emit pollutants such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems for the nearby population.
- Safety concerns: Coal mining is a hazardous occupation, and safety measures are often inadequate. Coal mines are prone to accidents such as roof collapse, fire, explosion, flooding, and gas leakage that can result in fatalities and injuries. According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, 377 coal mine workers died and 826 were injured in India between 2015 and 2019.
- Social issues: Coal mining affects the livelihoods and well-being of the local communities that depend on land and natural resources for their survival. Coal mining displaces people from their homes and lands without adequate rehabilitation and compensation. It also disrupts the social fabric and cultural identity of the indigenous tribes that inhabit the coal-rich regions.

These impacts highlight the need for a more sustainable and responsible approach to coal mining in India that minimizes the environmental and social costs and maximizes the benefits for the country's development. Some of the possible measures that can be taken are:

- Adopting cleaner technologies: Coal mining and power generation can be made more efficient and less polluting by using advanced technologies such as coal washing, coal gasification, supercritical and ultra-supercritical boilers, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and flue gas desulfurization (FGD)³. These technologies can reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from coal use and enhance its energy value.
- Implementing environmental regulations: Coal mining and power generation should comply with the environmental norms and standards set by the government and regulatory bodies. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) should be conducted for every coal project to assess its potential impacts on the environment and society. Environmental clearance (EC) should be granted only after ensuring that adequate mitigation measures are in place. Environmental monitoring and auditing should be done regularly to ensure compliance with the EC conditions.
- Enhancing social safeguards: Coal mining and power generation should respect the rights and interests of the local communities affected by their operations. Free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) should be obtained from the communities before acquiring their land or resources. Fair compensation and rehabilitation should be provided to the displaced people as per the law. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives should be undertaken to improve the living standards and welfare of the communities.
- Promoting renewable energy: Coal mining and power generation should be balanced with the development of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, etc. Renewable energy can provide clean, green, and affordable electricity to meet India's growing demand without causing environmental and social harm. Renewable energy can also create employment opportunities and reduce India's dependence on imported coal.


Conclusion

Coal mining in India is a complex and controversial issue that involves multiple stakeholders and trade-offs. Coal is a vital resource for India's economic growth and energy security, but it also poses serious challenges for the environment and society. The recent power crisis has highlighted the need for a more holistic and long-term approach to coal mining that balances the competing demands of development and sustainability. Coal mining in India should not be seen as a binary choice between coal and no coal, but rather as a spectrum of options that can be optimized according to the context and circumstances. Coal mining in India should also be seen as a dynamic and evolving process that can be improved and transformed over time with the advancement of technology, policy, and governance. Coal mining in India should ultimately aim to serve the best interests of the nation and its people.

Source

(1) Coal Mines in India List, Major Coal Fields, Types of Coal. https://www.studyiq.com/articles/coal-mines-in-india-list/.
(2) Impacts of Coal mining: a Review of Methods and Parameters Used in India. https://www.cwejournal.org/vol12no1/impacts-of-coal-mining-a-review-of-methods-and-parameters-used-in-india.
(4) Coal | Challenges and opportunities - PwC India. https://www.pwc.in/research-and-insights-hub/coal.html.
(5) Environmental impact studies in coalfields in India: A case study from .... https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032115010424.



FAQ's

Which area of Chhattisgarh is famous for coal mines?

Jhagrakhand or Hasdev Coalfields: Main coal mines are Jhagrakhand and haldibad.

How many coal mines are there in Chhattisgarh?

It is a "Miniratna" Company, and one of eight fully owned subsidiaries of Coal India Limited. The company has its headquarter at Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India and 92 mines spread over Chhattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh; 70 underground, 21 opencast, and 1 mixed.

Which is the largest coal mine in India?

Gevra OC Mine in Chhattisgarh, was the largest coal-producing mine in India, producing approximately 47.1 million tonnes of coal and an estimated 49 million metric tons per annum (mmtpa) of Run-of-Mine (ROM) in 2021.

Which is the largest open cast coal mine in India?

Gevra Open Cast Mine Gevra mine is an open cast mine complex at the town of Gevra that has been described as the largest open cast mine in India and Asia, as well as the world's second-largest. As of 2011 it has a capacity of 35 million tonnes per annum. It was opened in 1981.

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