Thermal coal imports soar 23% at 12 major ports

Import of thermal coal jumped 23 per cent to 24.08 million tonnes at 12 major ports in the first quarter of the fiscal, even as the government continues to push for boosting domestic production of the fuel.

Handling of coking coal, which is used mainly for steel-making, however, remained nearly stagnant with less than 1 per cent increase in the period at 8.17 MT, according to the Indian Ports Association (IPA).

These 12 major ports had handled 19.62 MT and 8.10 MT of thermal and coking coal, respectively, in the first quarter of the previous fiscal.

Altogether, they handled 32.25 MT coal during the April-June quarter of the current fiscal as against 27.72 MT in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.

Coal is the mainstay of India's energy programme as 70 per cent of power generation is dependent on the dry fuel, while Coal Minister Piyush Goyal has been emphasising the need to increase the production by state-run Coal India.

India is the third-largest producer of coal, after China and the US, and has 299 billion tonnes of resources and 123 billion tonnes of proven reserves, which may last for over 100 years.

India has 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.

Thermal coal is used in power generation and with the world's largest miner Coal India, which accounts for over 80 per cent of the domestic requirement, consistently failing to meet its target as well as demand of the firms, the power plants resort to imports.

Less production coupled with increased demand from power firms is further widening the demand-supply gap in the country, which is likely to widen to 185.5 MT in 2016-17.

Coal India could record barely a 31 MT increase in coal production in four years from 2010 to 2014, but in 2014-15, it recorded an increase of 32 MT.

For the current fiscal, CIL's production target has been fixed at 550 MT.

CIL missed the production target for 2014-15 by 3 per cent recording an output of 494.23 MT. The company’s output target was 507 MT for the fiscal. In 2013-14, the company had clocked production of 462.53 MT against a target of 482 MT.

In 2012-13, Coal India produced 452.5 MT of coal, falling short of the 464 MT goal.

The Centre has announced plans to boost Coal India's annual production to the level of 1 billion tonnes by 2019 to meet growing fuel demand.

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