KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – Government miner Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) has adopted a twin-pronged expansion strategy to take its coal mining operations beyond its present southern Indian geographical boundaries and at the same time add new business verticals of ‘manufactured sand’ production and solar energy.
The Ministry of Coal has assured the southern India-headquartered mining company that the federal government will grant new coal blocks to the miner under the preferential allotment rule for government companies.
These new coal blocks will be in coal-bearing provinces outside southern India, the traditional operational hinterland of SCCL, and enable the company to ramp up coal production to levels of 100-million tons a year over the next few years, government officials have said.
SCCL currently operates 47 mines – 16 opencast and 31 underground – with yearly production of 60-million tons, predominantly from coal blocks located in southern Indian around the Telengana province.
Company sources say that SCCL has earmarked a corpus of $1.47-billion for capital expenditure over the next five years to develop new coal blocks and to undertake non-coal diversification projects.
The miner has sought new coal blocks in regions like Odisha and Jharkhand so that the new mining projects will be located in proximity to thermal power plants that are facing problems sourcing fuel with their thermal power plants located at distance from coal pitheads, the sources add.
Foraying into solar power generation, SCCL has firmed up projects totalling about 300 MW with solar panels deployed across land available at its present mining sites like 60 MW at Yellandu, 50 MW at Ramagundam and 30 MW at Manuguru.
Pushing forward with its noncoal business portfolio, SCCL has decided on merchant sale of ‘manufactured sand’ (M-sand) for the construction industry, having already built up experience of producing M-sand from overburden removed from its mining sites and using it for stowing operations.
In a statement, the company said that it has drastically cut down use of natural sand for stowing at coal mines and part of its efforts to push towards merchant sale has seen SCCL, in collaboration with Jawaharlal Nehru Technology Institute (JNTU), Hyderabad test the sand and have it certified suitable for civil construction usage.
SCCL has floated tenders to set up more M-sand manufacturing plants in addition to the four existing plants that produced the material for its own usage, the statement said.
According to government estimates, Indian demand for sand, categorised as a ‘minor mineral” is pegged at 700-million tons a year and growing at about 7% a year, with a significant part of the demand being met through imports from Malaysia and Indonesia.