Coal Industry – UPSC GS1

In the light of recent developments in coal sector and its importance to the Indian economy, examine why coal is called as black gold in India. (200 Words)

Coal is more than a fossil fuel, it generates electricity in easiest and traditional way. Thermal power plant constitute 59% of India’s power production, Also many PSUs, State’s economy, employments in mines, easy setup of Thermal Power Plant makes Coal a viable and important fuel.
Recently Supreme court has revoked license of many mining companies which secured mining rights in last decades, stating it as illegal and unfair process of auctioning. It led to great losses to Indian economy, especially to rural population which were made to loose their habitat for no rehabilitation and made them labourer in their mine land. But, in recent time, with dream of Indian economy to grow fast, cheap and easy power is utmost important. Government took radical measure to exploit its domestic coal reserves and not rely on imports. It will boost economy in both way by reducing imports and generating economy, employment domestically.
Coal is correctly called Black Gold because:
  1. Coal gives us power, employment, livelihood in mineral rich states which are underdeveloped, revenue to Indian economy, CNG for cleaner fuel.
  2. If Coal mining is done in efficient way, India can earn by exporting them, as India has high quality coal like Anthracite while also rich in Lignite which is younger coal used in power plant because of its abundant presence.
  3. Coal is used as raw material for Iron & Steel industries, Coke making, naphtha plant and other metallurgical plants. Easy to transport with need of only rail and roadways make it important for production boom of a nation.
Hence Coal is considered as Black gold. With recent developments like revoking of old licenses to check corruption, e-auctioning of coal blocks will lead to cheaper electricity which will again boost industrial production.
Critical points wrt coal sector
  1. India has 295 billion tonnes coal reserves (3rd largest in world), with 60 billion tonne proven reserves. Still we are mining just about 0.6 billion tonnes and has to import about 200 million tonnes (2017).
Compare the situation with china; 3.6 billion tonnes annual coal production , 12 lakh mega watt installed capacity.
How to improve the situation ::
  1. Allow private mining — what govt. is doing right now
  2. Adopt Foreign technology- surface miners (opencast mines), Continuous miners, man riding system, robotics (underground mines) etc.
  3. strengthen Coal India:: We should ask the following question:
    1. why coal India was nationalised in 1973– reasons are poor safety records of pvt coal mining, very low productivity of private players(compare 70 million tonnes in 1972 vs 500+ million tonnes today) . So certainly things have improved. Further coal India is biggest PSU (even more valuable than ONGC), so they are paying heavy dividends to govt. exchequer.


How are minerals formed in igneous and metamorphic rocks? Explain the distribution of coal resource in India. Do you think more coal mining should be encouraged in India? Critically comment. (200 Words)
The earth crust generally is made up of 3 kinds of rocks namely igneous, sedimentary & metamorphic rocks. All these rocks contain a homogeneous naturally occurring substance with a definite internal structure known as Minerals.
In igneous and metamorphic rocks minerals may occur in the cracks, crevices, fault or joints. The smaller occurrences are called veins and larger are called lodes. In most cases, they are formed when minerals in liquid/molten and gaseous forms are forced upward from interior of the earth, through cavities towards the earth’s surface. They cool and solidify as they rise. Major metallic minerals like tin, copper, zinc and lead etc. areĀ  obtained from veins and lodes.
Distribution of coal:
  1. In India coals exists in rock series of two main geological ages, namely Gondwana, a little over 200 million years in age and in Tertiary deposits which are only 55 million years old.
  2. The major sources of Gondwana coal, which are metallurgical coal, are located in Damodar valley ( West Bengal -Jharkhand). Jharia, Raniganj, Bokaro are important coalfields.
  3. The Godavari, Mahanadi, Son and Wardha valley also contain coal deposits.
  4. Tertiary coal occur in the north eastern states of Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
In India, coal has high economic value, hence called ‘Black-Diamond’. Its extraction is required to fulfil the energy need in India’s progress. Unmindful and unplanned exploitation of coal has severe consequences-environmental degradation, ecosystem instability, displacement, land acquisition and rehabilitation, and major health issues of miners.
India cannot stop coal exploitation completely. There is need of planned and sustainable use of coal with proper cumulative social impact analysis for wellbeing of all the stakeholders. Focus should equally be on renewable energy. A balance between development and environment should dominate the policy-making.



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