As the technical arm of Coal India Ltd, the Central Mine and Planning Design Institute (CMPDI) is responsible for undertaking exploration of the country’s coal reserves. The government has recently increased the annual exploration target five times for the agency in a bid to expedite domestic coal production. Recently, it has also been given the job of exploring coal bed methane (CBM) reserves. But CMPDI is weighed down by the difficulties in securing forest clearances. CMPDI chairman AK Debnath speaks to FE’s Indronil Roychowdhury about the operational targets set for the agency and the challenges facing it. Excerpts:
There is a lot of pressure on CIL to increase production. Is there any technological solution to the issue?
CMPDI functions like the backbone of CIL. We are also the nodal agency for exploring and identifying non-CIL blocks, which are allotted to private players for captive use. We are also a nodal agency for coal bed methane ( CBM) reserves in the country. So you can understand the role we have to play in meeting the country’s energy needs. But as far as coal mining is concerned we do the entire planning—from which mine has to be developed to how it has to be developed. We have the mandate to identify latest technologies and see what can be done to increase productivity. To increase coal production we will have to look for better technologies suited to Indian seam conditions. But there are hurdles like clearances from the ministry of environment and forests and problems of law and order, which are coming in the way of increasing coal production.
What are the environmental hurdles in carrying out exploration activities?
At every step we have to take the MoEF clearance. We need to get access to forest lands to identify areas for developing and expanding mines. The MoEF doesn’t allow taking our drilling machines inside the forests. So what do we do!
CMPDI has been asked to step up exploration work. Can you meet the target?
It’s a huge challenge. CMPDI has been doing an average 3 lakh meters exploration per annum. But last year we achieved 5 lakh metres of underground exploration. Now the Planning Commission has asked us to achieve 15 lakh metres of (underground) exploration per annum by 2017. For this we need to dig 20 bore holes per sq km or 15 at the least. Now the MoEF is sticking to