The extraction industry gets a bad rap and is often at the center of critical issues facing the world today, like climate change. The general misperception of the public towards the mining industry, particularly coal, is due to its contribution towards global carbon emissions. The new wave of activism and demands for a greener economy has led to the portrayal of the mining sector as the bane of mankind’s existence.
As developed economies push for an accelerated transition to green power, developing countries are feeling the heat. For a country like India, rushing the widespread adoption of renewables will result in chaos. As it is, the country is already grappling with power issues caused by the dwindling supply of coal stocks for power generation. The unfolding situation has prompted the Centre to direct operators like EMIL, Hindalco and Adani coal project to increase the production. This perfectly highlights the importance of coal to an economy like India’s.
Although India has recently surpassed the milestone of installing 100GW in renewables capacity and setting a target of 450GW by 2030, the power situation is still in dire straits. The ongoing power debacle is a result of reduced coal production and soaring coal prices. To top it off, coal mining companies have to contend with the negative perception being widely purported on a daily basis. Nevertheless, initiatives undertaken in Coal India and Adani Group coal projects are helping change the misconstrued narrative.
Coal India Limited (CIL), the largest coal producer in the world, is on a mission to transform the widely held notion that coal mining degrades the land. In one of its largest projects, Jayant Opencast Coal Project located in Singrauli District, Madhya Pradesh, CIL is adopting a green approach. Land reclamation and afforestation activities by the company has finally borne fruit. As a result of the plantation drives carried in and around the project, on reclaimed and overburden dump areas, the pre-mining forest cover has grown from around 1,180 Ha to 1,419 Ha. Similar initiatives can also be found in every operational Adani coal project.
In the Parsa East &Kanta Basan coal block of Surguja District, Chhattisgarh, an Adani coal project operates as a Mine Developer and Operator (MDO). The project’s development was especially challenging considering that 70 per cent of the 2,700 Ha of mining land was under forest cover. Despite the odds, Adani employed state-of-art tree transplantation technology to relocate more than 5,600 trees, with a survival rate of over 90 per cent. The company made sure that for every tree felled, another 29 were planted. Additionally, over 1,40,000 native plant species have been replanted in over 50 Ha of land, including reclaimed areas.
These are just two examples of how mining activity along with responsible land management by companies is actually beneficial to all stakeholders. Along with the increased green cover and reclamation of land, the mining activity also employs thousands of locals who depend on it for their livelihood.
The question the world needs to ask is if a just transition is taking place when it comes to the mining industry. Are all stakeholders equally recompensed for the loss they will have to face? As the transition to green power accelerates, will the dependents of India’s coal trade be economically compensated? Until the answers to these questions are crystal clear, coal mining will continue to be India’s economic propellant.