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