The environment ministry has given Coal India the go-ahead to expand the Jhanjra underground mining project in West Bengal, one of the few such proposals in recent years, which will help the state monopoly extract coal worth more than Rs 8,000 crore without destroying forests.
- Coal India, under pressure to boost production, depends heavily on opencast mining, which is easier and cheaper, but faces hurdles as it often requires uprooting trees and displacing people.
- The Forest Advisory Committee, at a meeting on April 30, approved the diversion of 78 hectares of forest land in favour of Eastern Coalfields Ltd, Coal India’s subsidiary, for the Jhanjra underground mining project at Raniganj in West Bengal.
- This decision was taken to minimise damage to the forest area.
- Open cast mining has always been more popular in India as it is less labour intensive and cheaper than underground mining, which requires sophisticated technology
- India has very few underground coal mines as of now but the environment ministry feels this may be an effective answer.
- Pending clearance since 2012, the Jhanjra mine is considerably important for Coal India’s expansion plans.
- Eastern Coalfields is said to be importing a special ‘longwall’ machine from China.
- Coal India is also said to be now focusing on underground mines and switching to partial mechanisation for increasing coal extraction from them.
- In the interests of forest protection, underground mining is increasingly advocated everywhere.
- While the high cost factor is one deterrent from going underground, if environment externalities are kept in mind and the other costs of open cast mining are accounted for, underground mining has more in its favour.
Jhanjra Mine Specification:
Jhanjra Area consists of only one mine i.e Jhanjra project colliery. Jhanjra project colliery is a large underground mechanized mine. Prior to its development in early ‘80s this was a green field area. This prestigious project of ECL has metamorphosed the scenario totally and has established itself a noteworthy place in the global coal world.
Jhanjra block is located in the North-Eastern side of Raniganj Coalfield. The G.T road(NH-2) is about 15 Km south of the block and Durgapur Township is about 15 km by road to south-east of the area.
Jhanjra block covering an area of about 11.50 sq. km is surrounded by number of faults with throws varying from 15-110 m. Jhanjra block has eight extractable seams with a total reserve of about 200 million tonnes.