April 2012. A team of executives from Valley Longwall International (VLI), a major coal mining equipment player in Australia, flies down from the island country and travels 300 km from Hyderabad to a tender opening session at Kothagudem, floated by Singareni Collieries (SCCL).
They are told that the opening of the tenders has been postponed to the end of April as they were the only bidder.
The team again visits Kothagadem in end-April.
It is informed of another extension of the deadline for the same reason – they are still the only bidders.
Finally, in end-May, both technical and commercial bids are opened and VLI selected.
The tenders were floated by SCCL to employ man transporter systems and inseam directional drilling System in its mines as it was finding it difficult to increase production and also risking the safety of mineworkers due to outdated equipment.
Seven months on, SCCL is still running its mines with outdated and risky equipment, while VLI is busy persuading different government bodies to let it start field trial.
After VLI was selected, the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) issued a letter to the company to get its equipment tested in various government-owned laboratories in India, each located in a different part of the country.
“Our principals have already submitted all their equipment design and test certificates personally by visiting Dhanbad to Director General Satish Puri of DGMS, Dhanbad but they want the entire equipment to be tested locally,” said Amar Bhasin, the representative of VLI in India and vice-president of Hindustan Global Resources, a mining consultant in Australia. “This is not feasible and economical for us.”
Not only state-owned SCCL, DGMS’s insistence on local testing of the entire equipment is preventing even private companies from importing equipment meeting international safety and technology standards.
Among others, Electrosteel has been trying to procure inseam directional drilling system and the man transporters for one of the coal mines allotted to it by the government and expects something to materialise by January.
Even Monnet Ispat is stuck in regulatory mud, said sources.
“The reason we were the only bidders in the SCCL tender was that no company wants to go through the cumbersome process of getting approval for each and every nut, bolt and wire from Indian laboratories, at different locations,” said Bhasin.