Maoist threat hampering India coal output

The threat of Maoist attacks is hampering coal mining in several states, keeping production lower than the demand from growing industries, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said on Wednesday.

“If law and order situation is improved, coal production can rise by at least 25 percent,” Jaiswal told reporters.

India produced 531 million tonnes of coal in 2009/10, which fell short of demand by 70 million tonnes, and is looking at ways to boost production to help its growing power, steel and cement sectors.

“Unfortunately, the states that have coal, have bad law and order situation… no doubt our problem is very big due to which we can’t raise our production,” Jaiswal said.

With the Maoist rebels controlling vast swathes of mineral-rich areas, the government has often struggled to transport coal to power and steel firms.

Jaiswal said the central and the eastern Indian states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal were some of the coal-rich states that needed to beef up the security for mines.

Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless and want to overthrow the government, have attacked railway lines and factories, aiming to cripple economic activity.

The coal ministry is also taking advice from consultants to help get environmental clearances for coal mining, Jaiswal said.

“We are taking advice from consultants on what the way out is… what system we should evolve for getting forest and environmental clearances,” he said. Indian mines are facing difficulties in getting clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests which is keen to expand forests and has even earmarked “no-go” areas where vast tracts of mineral-rich zones lie.

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