KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – A scorching heat wave, which has seen the mercury rise to above 40 °C in India over the past few months, aggravated by an acute water shortage across the country, has dealt a blow to most coal mining operations countrywide.
In an attempt to cope with the heat wave – which had officially taken the lives of 87 people at the time of publication – production cuts, change or curtailment of shifts, a ban on daytime loading, and reduced manpower had become the norm at these operations.
In the eastern Indian province of Odisha, which hosted the headquarters and operational mainstay of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, the wholly owned subsidiary of Coal India Limited (CIL), daytime temperatures soared to around 46 °C.
The Odisha government, therefore, issued a directive to CIL to halt all day-time production and loading operations. There was also a sharp fall in manpower deployment in late evening shifts, as the attendance of contract workers fell.
In the southern Indian province of Telengana, the operational hinterland of Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), temperatures of 41 °C to 45 °C were reported from the coal belts of Khammam, Karimnagar, Wrangal and Adilabad, forcing SCCL to tweak shift timings, starting early and extending the afternoon break period.
The miner installed coolers at workers’ rest rooms and made a number of doctors available to take care of mineworkers who fell prey to heatstroke and dehydration.
SCCL officials said that their biggest worry for the coal company was the estimated 6-million tonnes of coal lying at the stockyards and the possibility of that coal getting ignited from the searing afternoon heat.
CIL officials said that it was still too early to get an aggregate estimate of production losses across mines operated by its various subsidiaries. Most of the management staff were currently trying to adjust operational hours and mitigate the hardship of mineworkers.
However, the forced production slowdown in the wake of the summer heat was a silver lining, since CIL had already been planning to cut back on production owing to stock buildup and the fall in offtake agreements with consumers, particularly thermal power plants.
Officials pointed out that, over the past summer months, the miner had been facing an acute shortage of storage space, as stocks were piling up amid rising incidences of coal self-igniting in the heat.
As of April 1, CIL was saddled with 58-million tonnes of stock, while production during the month was down 3.4% from production in the previous year’s corresponding month, largely owing to less coal mined during the summer months.
Dispatches in that time were also down 2.5% to 42-million tonnes, the lowest since September 2015.