‘COAL IN­DIA WIL BE US­ING TECH­NOL­OGY IN A BIG WAY’

Resource Digest - - NEWS -

Hav­ing stepped up sup­plies, Coal In­dia is now on a ma­jor qual­ity over­drive. Com­pany chair­man prom­ises grade slip­page will soon be a thing of the past, in an in­ter­view about the com­pany’s fu­ture plans.

CIL HAD A DREAM RUN ON THE PRO­DUC­TION FRONT. WHAT WERE THE CHANGE AGENTS?

In the first 10 months of FY 2016 coal pro­duc­tion grew by a record 9.6 per cent. And, the quan­tum jump in over-bur­den re­moval in­di­cate, we are ready to re­peat this feat next year. There are many rea­sons be­hind this growth, in­clud­ing mon­i­tor­ing of se­lect projects, faster en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance for new projects, clo­sure of im­por­tant ten­ders on time, bet­ter co-or­di­na­tion be­tween the Cen­tre and the State in re­mov­ing hur­dles. WHAT IS THE STA­TUS OF MDO AP­POINT­MENT? We have iden­ti­fied projects for ap­point­ment of long term mine de­vel­oper and op­er­a­tor (MDO). We al­ready have MDOS in ECL, MCL and BCCL. We have to see what novel tech­nolo­gies they bring to the ta­ble.

COAL DESPATCHES GREW BY A RECORD 9.8 PER CENT THIS YEAR. IS IT SUS­TAIN­ABLE?

The clue to this year’s off-take growth lies in rail trans­fer that moved up by 10 per cent as against an av­er­age of 4.5 per cent in the past. To make it sus­tain­able, CIL and the Rail­ways are now syn­chro­nis­ing their ef­forts to lay three cru­cial rail links in Jhark­hand, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Odisha. Rapid load­ing sys­tems are be­ing in­stalled at mines to im­prove util­i­sa­tion ra­tio. We have also agreed to fund pro­cure­ment of 2000 high-ca­pac­ity wag­ons.

THERE IS SE­RI­OUS CON­CERN ABOUT THE QUAL­ITY OF CIL COAL. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO AD­DRESS THAT?

Our fo­cus is on twin 'Q's - quan­tity and qual­ity. This year, we will sup­ply sized-coal of mi­nus 100 mm to power util­i­ties. We are com­mit­ted to make grade slip­page a thing of the past, sooner than later. The drive to sup­ply washed coal to power sta­tions by Oc­to­ber 2017, will be a shot in the arm for qual­ity as­sur­ance cam­paign. We will also in­sti­tu­tion­alise a sys­tem of cus­tomer feed­back on qual­ity.

IN­DUS­TRIAL PRO­DUC­TION IS HIT. AV­ER­AGE COAL STOCKS AT POWER PLANTS AND PIT­HEAD STOCK ARE AT ALL-TIME HIGHS. DO YOU PLAN TO CUT DOWN ON NEXT YEAR’S PRO­DUC­TION TAR­GET?

The coun­try has taken a long term view to meet the coal de­mand in­dige­nously and we are geared to meet that with pro­duc­tion tar­gets in­tact. With 78 per cent of our pro­duc­tion fu­elling power plants, the de­mand growth is linked to ca­pac­ity ad­di­tion in gen­er­a­tion sec­tor. I be­lieve the tweak down in de­mand is a tem­po­rary phe­nom­e­non. If the Cen­tral Elec­tric­ity Au­thor­ity’s pro­jec­tion for ca­pac­ity dur­ing the re­main­ing part of the year and the next fis­cal goes right, we should see suf­fi­cient growth in de­mand. Pit­head stock is up, al­though marginally, and we are tak­ing ex­tra ef­forts to liq­ui­date in­ven­to­ries.

CIL IS OF­TEN CRIT­I­CISED FOR LOW TECH­NOL­OGY INFUSION AND POOR MAN­AGE­MENT PRAC­TICES. HOW DO YOU RE­SPOND TO THAT?

CIL uses lat­est min­ing tech­nol­ogy de­pend­ing on re­quire­ment. We are us­ing ICT for dif­fer­ent busi­ness pro­cesses in a big way. Re­serve auc­tion based e-pro­cure­ment is now a way of life to en­sure trans­parency and cost sav­ings. The re­cent e-pro­cure­ment for ex­plo­sives has yielded overrs. 588 crore sav­ings. Gps-based ve­hi­cle track­ing sys­tem and elec­tronic sur­veil­lance at weigh­bridges (to check pil­fer­age) are ma­jor steps for­ward. An It-based pro­ject is un­der way to en­sure op­ti­mal ca­pac­ity util­i­sa­tion of equip­ment. We are into satel­lite-based mon­i­tor­ing of land and en­vi­ron­ment is­sues. Now we also plan to start us­ing drones to con­duct aerial sur­veys of blocks com­ing up for ex­plo­ration, sav­ing time on en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances, and to as­sess the ex­tent of green­ery re­stored af­ter mines are closed, help­ing us to cut sig­nif­i­cant costs and sav­ing a huge chunk of time. Drones can also be used to re­place satel­lite data which is of­ten un­clear in dif­fi­cult ter­rain. Cap­tur­ing data elec­tron­i­cally would help stream­line the data and make it more or­gan­ised. Drones can as­sess the level of stocks at our yards to de­ter­mine how much has been liq­ui­dated or added. Us­ing drones to de­ter­mine vi­a­bil­ity of a re­serve or mine will avoid need­less de­struc­tion of for­est and wildlife and dis­place­ment of peo­ple.

SU­TIRTHA BHAT­TACHARYA, CMD OF COAL IN­DIA

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