Steel Authority of India (SAIL), the country’s largest steel producer, has proposed to develop the Begunia coking coal seam of Raidih-Mahatadih block at Raniganj in West Bengal as an underground mine.
The project is part of a strategy to raise domestic coking coal supplies as one of its three coking coal mines is on the verge of exhausting its deposits, the state-owned company has said in its project report submitted to the West Bengal government.
“Presently, SAIL has three operating coal mines namely Chasnalla, Jitpur and Ramnagar, which are producing coal for captive use in the steel plants. Chasnala opencast mine is in the exhausting stage and in order to meet the demand and increase the production of coking coal from its own sources, IISP-SAIL (IISCO plant) recently started two new projects at Tasra and Sitanala in the Jharia coalfield. Further, it has proposed to exploit Begunia coal seam of Raidih-Mahatadih coking coal block of Raniganj coalfield by underground mining methods to meet the demand of coking coal to different steel plants of the SAIL,” said the report.
The public hearing for the project would be conducted on December 21.
Out of its total requirement of 14 million tonne (mt), SAIL has managed to source about 3.5 million tonne of coking coal from Coal India and its own mines. The firm imports 75% of its coking coal requirement, or 11 mt, spending about Rs12,000 crore a year.
The coking coal requirement is set to touch 21 mt as its steel capacity is hiked to 24 mt by 2013-14 from 14 mt now.
“Requirement of SAIL’s coking coal will increase manifold from the present level of consumption in coming years with implementation of growth plan. The envisaged project in lease-hold area of SAIL may be a major source of indigenous coking coal for the coming 30 years. It will help the company to mitigate the impact of international coking coal price partially. Development of Begunia seam is, therefore, an imperative for SAIL to augment indigenous coking coal availability,” the report said.
It mentions several geological constraints in the Begunia seam, which is traversed by several faults that might make extensive mining difficult. Due to a difficult mining environment, SAIL is even contemplating undertaking the highly capital-intensive longwall mining technique by joining nearby coal blocks to make it cost effective.