The first coal mining operation commenced in 1774 in the Raniganj coalfield on the banks of River Damodar. The introduction of steam locomotives and WW-I stimulated demand for coal, and production peaked at 18 million tons (mts) during the 1920s.
Till independence, the Indian coal industry witnessed sporadic phases of growth. Since the private sector followed unscientific methods, productivity was low. The Indian government took steps to correct this and improve the working conditions in the nation’s coal industry. National Coal Development Corporation (NCDC), comprising of railway owned collieries, was established. In the early 1970s, all privately owned coal producing companies were nationalized under the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act.
Despite having one of the largest reserves, the Indian coal industry does not hold a position in the league of global energy suppliers. This can be attributed to the soaring domestic demand. A study conducted by the Indian Planning Commission and the Coal Ministry revealed that India’s total coal consumption was expected to increase from 510 mts in 2007-08 to 550 mts by 2008-09. To meet this requirement, substantial public investment is needed. Even the private players would need to deploy advanced mechanisms to increase production levels.
Coal washeries are also under pressure. The onus of producing quality coal lies with this segment. It is required to sustain high quality levels within stringent environment regulations.