WCL at turn around, on innovative move

WCL at turn around, on innovative move

Coal India’s fourth largest subsidiary WCL revamping its coal production capacity and simultaneously taking eco-friendly initiatives for making strong social connectivity and adding economic value to the company. In a free-wheeling talk with Pradeep Pandey, WCL chairman-cum managing director, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra and his team members, share how the company is moving on a progressive track…..

Western Coalfields Limited (WCL),PSU coal miner, has not only ramped up the coal production in the past couple of years but also launched an array of operational reform activities to make mining more eco-socio friendly as well as creating value resources.

To ramp up coal production WCL, a Miniratna company, has revived/opened 18 mines for coal production by March 2017 and targets to add another 10 mines by the end of the fiscal year 2017-18. Back in November 2015, coal minister, Piyush Goyal had announced that WCL will open 36 new mines in the coming 36 months in order to meet a targeted 100 million tonne production by 2022.

“In 2015-16, WCL had hit the production target of 44 mt. We expect to achieve 48 mt in the current fiscal ending 31 March 2017 and our target is 60 mt by 2019-20,” said Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, chairman- cum-managing director of Western Coalfields Ltd, who has also been given additional charge as CMD of Eastern Coalfields Ltd.

The company has narrowed down upon a Rs. 6,280 crore capital investment plan till 2019-20 in a phased manner which far surpasses its surplus reserves. The major portion of the planned investment, amounting to Rs. 3,486 crore will be on land acquisition followed by Rs. 2,032 crore on installation of plant and machinery. Besides, another Rs. 242 crore has been earmarked for exploration.

Credited with ramping up coal production in WCL, Mishra also Once on the verge of being referred to the BIFR after registering five years of negative growth and making losses for three consecutive years from 2011-12 to 2013-14, WCL staged a comeback in 2014-15 achieving a 3.6 per cent growth and a profit of Rs. 161 crore.

Under the visionary leadership of Rajiv Mishra, WCL has initiated eco-friendly mine tourism at Saoner village making coal mines as tourist destination, which has placed India on the world map of such tourism finding very few destinations across the globe.

Coal India’s fourth largest mining subsidiary has also launched potable water project for the nearby villagers of Nilgaon, canal and water pipeline project from Kamthi to Kanhan (K2K), and plans to set up two more eco-parks in the mining region of Nagpur.

Potable Water Resources

Vidarbha region of Maharashtra has been ill-fated to be worst drought hit area almost every year despite holding enough natural resources. In the past few decades, mining and industrialisation in the region has depleted the water resources badly. 

“If nature is giving us its treasure our concern should be not only exploiting the resources but also restore or compensate the harm done to it. We made a survey in the villages coming under mining region and found that the villagers hardly get hygienic water supply, while millions of gallons from the mines being released in the rivers,” said Mishra.  

Normally, water evacuated from the mines are not potable so it needs to be purified. WCL team did an inhouse study for making use of mine water. The WCL team also developed inhouse technology to purify the mine water before supplying it to villages and releasing it in rivers and canals that can be used for irrigation also. “Initially, we have started potable water supply to villages such as Nilgaon and Borgaon and the results are commendable soon we will extend such facilities to other villages,” said Mishra. Mining is a sensitive issue and has direct as well as indirect impact on the life of the villagers in such areas. Without their support and cooperation mining is almost impossible so the mining companies have to win them by arranging basic facilities that include rehabilitation and hygienic living environment. “I believe this should not be taken lightly. For smooth operations of the mines social connect is must and it is also our duty to provide them healthy and eco-friendly life,” Mishra added.

River diversion for mine expansion

The state run Miniratna WCL made a herculean task of river diversion at its one of the largest coal mine reserves area in Umrer area.  The area with three opencast mines contributed 3.2 million tonne coal annually till fiscal year ending March 2010 but in its worst nightmare in September 2010, the production at the site hit almost nil when the regional river Amb gushed into the mines leaving its original track. The incident hit badly the production top-line of the mining company that resulted into huge loss on aggregated basis. In a way, WCL Director (Technical) project and planning, T N Jha termed it as “one of the biggest drag line for WCL” at a time when the industry was already reeling under coal crunch.   

However, WCL recently completed the project of diversion and freed its coal reserve of over 21 mt that may create earnings of about Rs. 1200 crore. The Ambreiver has been given a diversion of about 5 Km with an investment of around Rs. 65 crore,  in order to free the zone and prevent from change of track by the river. The move has revived the production capacity of the mines to 3.5 mt. “Has these three new mines Makardhokra (1 & 3) and Gokul were not opened and had Amb river not been diverted, production in Umbrer area would have been restricted merely to 4 lakh tonne. With opening of these two mines and diverting the river, we are ready to produce 8 mt, revamping the capacity 20 times,” said Jha.  

Eco-Mine Tourism& Eco-Park

Coal mining that has been for years laced with the concept of dangerous activity in dark tunnels. WCL, in a move to bring a change in common views related to coal mining, has tried to provide closer look to this activity carried deep under the earth with opening one of its mines located in Saoner for eco-tourism. 

The Coal India subsidiary has tied up with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to run eco-mine tourism that gives a glimpse into the lives of miners who work against the forces of nature. About 45 Km from the main city of Nagpur, Saoner eco-mine tourism has gained popularity across the state with in few months of its opening.

Nevertheless, the site provides unique experience for the visitors. Tourists enter the mine on a magnetic man-rider system for reaching a depth of more than 150 meter and then on foot to the horizontal ducts for another nearly 1-Km. One can experience the interiors of a coal mine and are made aware of various safety measures in place to ensure safety of workers. DM Gokhale, the general manager of the Western Coalfields Ltd, said, “Its our effort to bring a live experience of mining for the tourists. It includes adventure as well as unique experience for the people who hardly get chance to enter the mines and have live experience of mining.”

The tour includes a trip to the mine, where visitors learn about the tough life of miners, the dangers they face and the huge machinery involved in mining.Saoner mine is spread over 5 sqKm and adjacent surface area has been converted into an Eco-Park for the kids. The park vicinity provides opportunity for kids to see operational mining machines, water fountain and swings being operated with scientific effect with zero energy consumption. Natural habitats and a battery-operated toy train touring through park for a close nature watch. Kids are not allowed to enter the real mine so the park has arrangement of virtual experience of mining through a model mine showing how miners work in it. The eco-park has one more uniqueness that all the instruments including the toy train has been manufactured using the scrape released from the mine.

Turning overburden into value resource

Disposal of overburden-- rocks, silt, sand and clay extracts---has been one of the biggest challenges for the mining companies as it also creates environmental hazard like fly ash generated by power plants.

To overcome this very challenge, WCL has come up with a viable solution for making optimum use of this overburden that toothrough an in-house developed technology. WCL team has developed a machine that is capable of segregating stones, sand and clay.

With this the state run mine company is eyeing to beef up its turnover by sourcing sand and bricks to the roads and infrastructure sector. As a diversification move, WCL has begun segregating sand out of the earth dug out for mining coal and a project for making bricks has also been started.

Overburden normally used to refill the mines after the coal is entirely extracted. However, now WCL  has begun with supplying 500 cubic meters a day to Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT), to be used in Pradhan MantriAwas Yojana, a low cost housing scheme of government. It is also in advance stage of signing agreement for supplying sand to other agencies including National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

WCL digs out 200 million tons of overburden in a year. Though this is used to refill the mines, the entire quantity is not consumed in the process. Due to the swell factor in soils, the volume of overburden goes up by 20% after being dug out. So after taking only the incremental 20% for making sand, rest can be still used for refilling the mines.

“The company has begun with a pilot project in Nagpur area where the soil has more sand content. However, the soil type is more or less similar in rest of the areas too where WCL has its mines. After supplying sand to NIT, WCL is planing to take up the venture on large scale basis too,” said Ashees Tayal, Dy Manager, Public Relation, WCL.


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