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50 Million People Directly Dependent on Coal Mining, Says India



May 16, 2023 - India will press for a "just energy transition" at the G-20 parleys, a top government official said on Monday, pointing out that 50 lakh people are directly dependent on coal mining.

The country, which is keen to up its pace of development to take care of an increasingly aspirational population, has chosen a path of climate justice and aims to pursue a balanced growth model based on the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, Union coal secretary Amrit Lal Meena told reporters here.

"As per our estimation, about 50 lakh people are engaged directly or indirectly in coal mining activities, especially in eastern Indian states. So, just transition has to cater to that challenge," he said.

Meena said questions surrounding livelihoods of these 50 lakh people, alternate vocations, skulking, healthcare and education have to be considered while charting the way forward.

He did not answer a question on what would be India's specific agenda during the third meeting of the G-20 energy transitions working group, which began in the financial capital on Monday, or the consensus which the country is seeking to achieve.

A query on the challenges he foresees from the delegates, especially nations pressing hard for more action from India to help limit the impact of climate change, was also not answered.

He said India has identified 30 mines where the coal mining has been over and coal companies have started a 2-3 year exercise of closure.

Apart from that, India is also putting the de-coaled land to environmental friendly use, which may include creating forests by putting fly ash or using it for agricultural purposes, Meena said.

The country needs coal to help achieve the economic growth targets, and the government is also pushing forward with the agenda of higher private sector involvement in the coal mining, he said.

The aim is to get up to a fourth of the overall coal extracted by private enterprises by 2030, Meena said, adding that response from the private sector for the seventh round of coal mine auctions has been "encouraging".

So far, 87 mines have been allotted to private sector companies since 2020 in six rounds of auction, and the target is to have private installed capacity of 500 million tonnes at peak rate capacity, Meena said, adding that it takes up to four years for a mine to start production after it is allotted.

Meena said four of the 87 mines have already started production, and a majority of the rest will start production by FY25.

He said the country is targeting an increase in overall coal production to 1,012 million tonnes in FY24, up from the 892 million tonnes in FY23.

The coal production will keep climbing up and hit a peak in 2040, after which it will plateau as the country will start relying more on renewable sources, he said.

When asked about the impact of the power ministry's plan to not add any new thermal power plant beyond the ones which are already under construction, Meena said "we now have the capacity to supply adequate coal to the power plants".

At present, the coal ministry is also focused on ensuring that wherever possible, "we can reduce the coal imports" and within two years, the "substitutable" one will be done.

However, India will continue to import coking coal used in steel plants because there is no local production of it at all, he added.