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By Knowing practical challenges only can we become effective engineers : Pramod Agrawal, CMD, Coal India Limited

Ranchi, Jharkhand | June | 22, 2020 :: TEDxKanke organized a Webinar with the title New coal mining strategy post covid 19.
Speaker of the Webinar was Pramod Agrawal, CMD, Coal India Limited (CIL) and Moderated was Rajeev Gupta, Curator, TEDxKanke

On the current economic scenarios and challenges for Coal

• We are expecting the economy to go down by about 5%, contrary to the earlier growth rates of 2-3% at the global level. India was looking at some growth, but we should only be expecting a degrowth. ADB report suggests that our economy could be down by 4%.

• Our energy demand has reduced by 22% in last 3 months. Coal demands has reduced by 27% and dispatches have reduced. This might go down further before things improve.
• Challenges we were effacing before COVID – fossil fuel versus renewables energy, price of renewable energy and storage is going down; the target of 50% of renewable energy share as committed in the Paris Agreement by India is another challenge.
• Coal to remain primary energy source until 2040 as the capacity factor in solar energy still remains a big concern – increasing the capital costs for solar installations (4.5 Crore INR for 1 MW).
• Coal market will become more vibrant with the commercialization of coal. Market price selling instead of fixed price selling can increase the profit of the sector.
• We have an opportunity to substitute imports – 240 Million metric ton of which 150 Million metric ton can be avoided – this gives us an opportunity to ramp up our production substantially.
• If the government policies with regards to labor, markets and environmental clearances are streamlined then it gives us a great opportunity to boost our production.
• We are focusing on quality – which s slightly difficult to achieve in India as the coal here exists in the drift. Supply or quantity has been an issue as we have always operated in a scarcity.
• We are ramping up our investments in coal development and excavations is taken to 20-25 thousand Crore INR from 8-9 thousand Crore INR – quality will improve, and consumer base will be intact.
• Also investing in Renewables as we want to become a net zero energy company. Also working on Coal to Chemical to diversify in other areas related to coal.

On key area of challenge and what needs to be done

• Technology adoption is slow which needs to be ramped up. In 3-4 years, we employ more and more surface miners so that quality can be enhanced. Evacuation infrastructure – should become mechanized b 75%. Investments are being made to help us evacuate 500 million ton of mechanical coal evacuation.
• Need to invest in areas for new technology for better profitability – chemical conversions, gasification, etc.
• Business model transformation – adopting MDOs – underground, open cast and abandoned mines, model in which we are giving the mines to private agencies om a long-term basis. 15 Greenfield have been identified with a capacity of about 165 Million tons and this can increase our efficiency.
• Digital transformation – we should talk about mining 4.0. The changes are challenging but we are only looking at process transformation for easier adoption. We need to integrate existing technology with operations and decision making which is a difficult task to do. Imparting training to our workforce for using the technology effectively will also be a priority.
• We have developed project management tools which can help us in identifying the scope of improvement within the organization and identify the levels of delay and fine tune our processes.

On ERP system and increasing feedback mechanism

• ERP is a very effective tool in increasing the efficiency of the organization. We are planning to put the system in place by September 2021. This should have happened long back. Decision making based on data is impossible otherwise.
• We do not have an organized way of keeping the data. The ERP will help in reducing inefficiency
• This will also improve our interface with our customers. Every contract is kept in isolation which does not serve well for our customers. We need to integrate the ERP for preventive maintenance in a much more effective manner.

Audience Questions:

First, there are 4 institutions that can benefit the Ranchi Public – IICM and Motor driving school for training women on which we have heard no progress; Gandhinagar Hospital which is not used by public; and Jawaharnagar Club which is not being used. This is my suggestion that these could be put to use.

Don’t you think that private companies are going to give you competition as you have been enjoying a monopoly? This will be challenge for to improve your working and. Cut down the cost which could be a big help for you?

Why do you want to lose the focus from coal where you have all the expertise by thinking about adding on renewables?

By Mr Mahesh Poddar, MP Rajya Sabha

• I confess that I do not know much about the four institutions as they are managed by CCL which I have not have the chance to visit yet. But I will see that these are taken to logical consequences, especially the motor driving school. Gandhinagar hospital is normally meant for the Coal India employees and families, but we can surely open some services for common people – as can be seen with it being used as a COVID center.
• We have to improve ourselves to be able to challenge the private companies. Our operations will become difficult unless we improve and develop trust in our customers. People can move to import more coal, and no one can ban this import due to WTO restrictions. So, Coal India has to become more efficient if it has to survive. Opening of commercial mines should give us more opportunities and better agility.
• We will remain a coal focused company. Coal production will be our main activity, but we will also diversify in areas related to coal as coal gasification and coal to chemical – to increase our profitability.
• We are looking at net zero energy consumption by generating as much solar energy as much we consume. This will boost our environmental performance and get us better investments.

What are your plans for transformation of the skills of CIL manpower which can match the levels of global manpower in large firms? What advice will you give to students looking to build a career in Coal India?
By Dr O R S Rao, Vice Chancellor of ICFAI Ranchi

• There are 3 levels of manpower – executive which is very well trained. Second is from polytechnics and It is which is also trained. Third is unskilled which do other normal jobs. We are moving towards more mechanization and therefore looking to reduce the unskilled manpower.
• For executive levels, we are planning ad tying up with top most institute like IIMs for training them in particular areas of operations they are engaged in. When their profile changes, they must be given proper training to acquire new responsibilities. This executive training program is in process.
• Message for students would be to work for themselves. Practical knowledge of the field is key and by knowing practical challenges only can we become effective engineers. They should integrate their theory knowledge to on ground experiences during their internships.

The blocks that have been opened for commercial mining are ones which have not been mined by Coal India for several years. When private companies are going to mine the coal, which was unviable from CIL’s point of view, will this change CILs strategy to mine all the coal from the seam belts below the initial levels. Secondly, the climate dialogue and renewables future will have a huge impact on coal mining. Since it is huge employment generator, is there a plan for migrating these people into different employment sectors?

By Mr Sunil Barnwal, IAS, Govt. of Jharkhand

• Deep mining proves very costly and is generally difficult. In Dhanbad, the mining has happened in a lackadaisical or unpanned manner. In NCL etc. where mining is done in planned manner CIL is also mining at the last coal belts for complete resources extraction.
• We are giving away the abandoned mines on MDO basis. This might not be large from CIL perspective but for the region it will be still a large project. This will help in utilizing the unviable coal and increase overall production.
• No question of closing down as our energy consumption and demand is huge. Not more than 15-20% of our energy requirement will be met through renewables even when the generation by renewable is 50%.
• We are taking 6000 people in non-executive roles. We take two-third of manpower which is unskilled – coming out of land acquisition and compensation. We are starting skilling centers and it would be a good idea to send them to it is etc. for enriching skill in the workforce. There is no concrete plan here, but we do hope to have better skilling in place.

Let us consider Coal India as earth entrepreneurs – there is an ecosystem involved. Coal India is a mature company that can give justice to sustainability and ecosystem services. There are major concerns in how Coal India treats people and the ecosystem. How can this be taken care of?

By Dr Satish Sinha, IIT (ISM) Dhanbad

• We understand that we are disturbing the earth. We did some surveys during the lockdown and we realize that most of the pollution is generated when coal is transported. We are looking for mechanization which can remove dust release due to blasting. Non carbonaceous substance can be removed by surface mining through machines.
• Open cast mines generate most of the pollution. If mechanization and evacuation processes are developed, then this will further reduce the pollution through transportation. We are also looking developing new lines to minimize road transportation and thus, reduce pollution.

• In last year we planted more than 2 crore plants and planation was done on 800 acres of land. We are focused on reclamation. We also focus on using all of the water generated. But I admit that we need more work to increase our performance with regards to people and environment.

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