Net Zero by 2070: India still has 99 coal projects in pipeline

India has a 36% underutilised coal capacity in existing mines

By Seema Prasad
Published: Friday 14 October 2022

India is developing 99 new coal mines despite the Union government’s international pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, according to new research.

The upcoming projects put 165 villages and 87,630 families at risk of displacement. And 41,508 of these families belong to scheduled tribes, noted the research by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) published October 13, 2022.

India, in its nationally determined contributions, announced a target to cut 1 billion tonne carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce carbon intensity of the economy to less than 45 per cent.

A temporary coal shortage due to high electricity demand prompted the government to start developing these coal projects. These projects have the capacity to produce 427 million tonnes of coal annually (mtpa).

Today, India’s projected annual coal shortage is at 49.3 million tonnes, three times the previous estimates of 17.7 million tonnes, according to a report by the news agency Reuters.

The demand for coal has risen to 784.6 million tonnes for the financial year ending March 2023, the same report added.

GEM report pointed out the impracticality behind expanding this move since existing mines already have wasted the unused capacity that could help meet some of the rising power demands. 

India has a 36 per cent underutilised coal capacity in existing mines, equivalent to 433 mtpa. The underutilised capacity exceeds the proposed capacity of 427 mtpa, it added.

Coal Production in India
  Mine Status Proposed Mine Details
State Operating Proposed Projects Projects Announced Projects Under Exploration Projects Permitted Projects Under Construction
Chhattisgarh 153 48 0 35 13 0
Gujarat 10 0 0 0 0 0
Jharkhand 136 106 11 73 22 0
Madhya Pradesh 104 16 0 16 0 0
Maharashtra 55 4 0 4 0 0
Odisha 142 92 0 92 0 0
Rajasthan 7 0 0 0 0 0
Tamil Nadu 28 23 12 12 0 0
Telangana 62 0 0 0 0 0
Uttar Pradesh 40 5 0 5 0 0
West Bengal 32 7 0 3 0 4

This data is based on Global Coal Mine Tracker survey, updated July 2022. Units of measurement: Million tonnes per annum.

Jharkhand and Odisha alone account for 40 per cent of unused mine capacity, with the availability of 100 million tonnes.

New mines can’t solve the industry’s old problems, said Ryan Driskell Tate, project manager for GEM’s Global Coal Mine Tracker, in a press release.

“The irony of this expansion is that opening new mines today could intensify the sector’s weaknesses and inefficiencies tomorrow, especially as competition from renewables and conflicts over land use continue to emerge,” he added.

For example, 389 mtpa of the proposed capacity will be located in high-risk water zones, exacerbating water shortages. These mines require 168,041 kilolitres of water per day, the report stated.

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