We plan a foray into metal mine designing

A qualified mining engineer with more than three decades' experience, credited with designing some of the biggest mines in India and a classical music fan, A K Debnath, CMD of Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, shares with Resource Digest the company’s plans for the future

CMPDI is famous for its expertise in developing coal mines, but at the moment the country is facing the challenge of coal shortage to meet the requirement of power, steel and other mega industries. What are CMPDI’s plans for the future?

As a subsidiary of Coal India Limited (CIL), our main focus has always been on exploration of coal reserve and designing of mines. We are putting our best efforts to develop maximum mines allocated to CIL and its subsidiary companies. The speed with which the work is going on has made us confident that the gap between demand and supply of coal will reduce over the next few years.

To develop a coal mine, you need to assess the reserve and engineers and geologists have to carry out lots of pre-operation work like drilling. Everyone knows that at several places, local people, especially those who will be displaced, oppose the drilling work. How do you handle such opposition?

There are some problems at a few places, but people have started realising the importance of coal mines for the development of the country. There is good news for mining companies as we have successfully developed a technology which will be at least 10% cheaper and more accurate than the existing system. We expect that we will be in a position to use it commercially within a couple of months.

CMPDI has been involved in the field of coal mining exploration and mines developed for decades. Is there any plan to diversify and enter non-coal mine projects?

Yes. We are in the process of diversification and have plans to design mines of metals like copper and molybdenum for two public centre undertakings. Our engineers will design the mines and, since metal mines are safe than coal mines, we hope our design will be among the best in the world.

Is there any plan to expand the natural gas exploration base in the country?

Oil and natural gas exploration was mainly done by ONGC. Recently, we were asked by the directorate general of hydrocarbons to carry exploration of shale gas, a natural gas, especially in non-coal bearing areas. We will very soon take up the work to find availability of shale gas in such areas of the country.

Mining has always been a tough job, full of risk and very monotonous. How do you cope with this personally?

When I was studying at Indian School of Mines in 1970s, I used to sing a lot, especially classical songs. After joining CIL, I got engrossed in work and ignored my passion for many years. I have once again started singing, not for public, but just for myself. I can say that it has been a wonderful experience.

My stress level has come down and energy has gone up. I have even started suggesting to my colleagues to listen to music and sing songs to de-stress.

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