India Drafts Roadmap for New Tech to Support Coal Mine Operations

The government plans to implement new technologies and build digital infrastructure to support coal mines operations in a bid to cut down on dry fuel imports. Technological advancements in coal mining are also making operations more productive. According to the government’s draft technology roadmap for the coal sector, the move involves a strong, multi-speed backbone information technology and infrastructure system that allows rapid deployment of new technologies. The creation of such a system would require access to new-age ecosystems like start-ups, established vendors, research and institutes, among others.

The roadmap noted that to reduce the dependency on imports, it is critical for state-run organisation Coal India Ltd (CIL) to reach the one billion tonnes (BT) target. New technologies can have a number of impacts on mining operations, including safety and productivity, environmental protection, and opportunities for women. Integrating technology into mining projects will lead to safer working conditions through improved underground communication, automation, and more sophisticated mineral and metal transportation and emergency response measures. The roadmap expects a new way of thinking will be inculcated in the entire organisation.

A technology transformation team will be set in place to drive impact and sustain the programme with an established centre of excellence. A robust tracking and change management mechanism will be deployed to ensure timely resolution and delivery. It added that the scope of the plan is to technology enablement in coal mines to transform business value chains by using digital technology to enhance performance, increase productivity and sustainability as well as reduce environmental impacts.

India had a total coal reserve of 344.02 billion tonnes. Commercial primary energy consumption in India has seen a rise of 700% in the past four decades. Major factors for the increase in demand for energy are expanding economy, rising population. and the improvement of quality of life. The limited potentiality of other energy sources will lead to the continuation of coal as the primary resource in India’s energy scenario for the next few decades. However, due to the high demand and poor average quality, the country has to import coal of higher quality mainly to meet the requirements of its steel plants, cement plants, and sponge iron plants, among others.

Recently, the Union Coal Secretary, Anil Kumar Jain, claimed that by 2024, the country may not need to import coal to generate electricity. Production by both CIL and private companies is going up, which is ultimately expected to do away with the need for importing coal, which is used in power plants, he stated. As much as 8% of the coal requirement by the power sector is met by imports. This comes to 90 million tonnes. During the coal crisis of last year, imports had come down to 3% due to high prices in the international market. The PSU coal sector was somehow able to meet the 5% gap from domestic production then. The Secretary added that this year, the demand for power has grown by 9%. An additional 10% hike is expected for the year 2024.