KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - India’s Coal and Power Ministry has urged the newly created National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) to have a special focus on the discovery of coking coal resources in the country.
Federal Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal, attending the first meeting of NMET’s governing council, said that high priority should be given to exploration for coking coal resources across the country to achieve self-sufficiency, reduce import dependency and foreign exchange outflow on imports of coking coal by the domestic steel industry.
While the Coal Ministry was confident of ramping up the production of thermal coal through its various projects and initiatives and to stop thermal coal imports by 2017, inherent geological disadvantages in the case of coking coal would be a challenge for the newly established NMET to take up.
It was decided that NMET would deploy funding to complete ‘obvious geological potential’ targets across 813 000 km2 of aero-geophysical survey, although the timeframe for completing the exercise was not declared at the first meeting of the Trust.
A Coal Ministry official, commenting on the first deliberations of NMET, said that the government’s urgency to step up coking coal exploration was against the backdrop of high import dependency wherein the country had to ship in an estimated 30-million to 35-million tonnes a year to meet over 50% of demand from the domestic steel industry.
Citing data from the Indian Bureau of Mines, he said that only extensive exploration using advanced technologies could overcome the present geological disadvantage of the country vis-à-vis coking coal reserves and availability.
Of the 298-billion tonnes of established coal reserves, only 123.18-billion tonnes were in the proven reserves category, 142-billion tonnes were indicated reserves and the remaining 33-billion tonnes were in the inferred category.
Of the total reserves, the share of prime coking coal was just 5.13-billion tonnes and 28.75-billion tonnes of medium or semi-coking coal.
The NMET was formally notified and put into operations in August 2015, under which all mining lease holders, or those holding prospecting cum mining lease, would pay a sum equivalent to 2% of total royalty liabilities of miners towards the Trust fund.
NMET had been mandated to extend and fund exploratory projects across the country and rope in mining companies in private and government sectors, such as Steel Authority of India Limited, iron-ore miner NMDC Limited and MOIL (formerly Manganese Ore India Limited), to undertake exploration, as the latter already had extensive mining operations.