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Sustainable Coal Mining

Context: Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in the coal sector have taken several measures to ensure sustainable coal mining in the country.

India and Coal Mining

  • Electricity generation: Coal accounts for over 70% of India’s electricity generation, making it the primary source of energy in the country.
  • Production: India is the second-largest coal-producing country in the world, after China.
  • Import dependence: Despite being a major coal producer, India also imports a significant amount of coal to meet its domestic demand. Imports account for almost one third of India’s coal consumption.
  • Environmental impacts of coal mining:
    • Deforestation and loss of biodiversity: large areas of forest are cleared to make way for coal mines, leading to loss of habitat and biodiversity.
    • Soil erosion and degradation: Soil is disturbed during mining operations, leading to erosion and loss of fertility.
    • Water pollution and depletion: Water sources can become polluted with toxins, heavy metals, and other pollutants from mining operations. Groundwater resources can also become depleted due to the heavy water usage in coal mining.
    • Greenhouse gas emissions: Burning coal also releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.
    • Acid mine drainage: Acidic water, containing toxic metals, can be released from exposed coal seams and contaminate local water sources. This can have long-term impacts on the surrounding environment, including soil and groundwater contamination.

The best Practices adopted by Coal PSUs for Sustainable Coal Mining are as below:

Bio-reclamation / Plantation Coal PSUs have been making constant and sincere efforts to minimize the footprints of coal mining through sustained reclamation and afforestation of areas in and around coal mines.
Development of Eco-Parks
  • Mining areas, after the exhaustion of coal reserves, offer good potential for promoting tourism by developing eco-parks, sites for water sports, golf grounds, avenues for recreation, adventure, bird watching etc.
  • Over the years, Coal PSUs have developed 30 Eco-parks by undertaking sustainable coal mining practices.
Mine Water utilization for community use
  • In the process of coal mining, a huge volume of mine water gets collected in mine sumps and subsequently pumped out to the surface.
  • By application of appropriate treatment methods, Coal PSUs are utilizing mine water for community use for drinking/irrigation purposes.
Gainful Utilization of Overburden (OB) Even as the mandate is to produce and dispatch coal to its consumers, Coal PSUs have taken an out of box initiative to produce sand from overburden at a much cheaper price and usages of processed OB for stowing purposes in underground mines.
Promoting Renewables In order to minimize the carbon footprints of mining and to progress towards the goal of net zero carbon emission, Coal PSUs have installed renewables capacity of about 1649 MW (Solar – 1598 MW and Wind Mills – 51 MW) as of 31.03.2022.
Energy Efficient Measures Coal PSUs have adopted various energy conservation & efficiency measures such as the use of LED lights, energy efficient ACs, E-vehicles, Super Fans, Efficient Water Heaters, Auto timers in street lights, and capacitor banks.

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