Coal India's abandoned mines to store fly ash

The abandoned mines of the Coal India Limited (CIL) in Chhattisgarh would be used for storing fly ash generated from the power plants in the state.

The state government had identified such mines earlier operated by the South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) — country’s largest coal producing company and the highest profit making entity of the CIL. The SECL, having registered corporate office in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district, has 113 approved coal projects (80 underground projects and 33 opencast projects) for a total ultimate capacity of 149.02 million tonne per annum.

Most of the mines of the SECL that was incorporated in 1985 had been located in Chhattisgarh. A few mines had been abandoned after extracting the entire reserve. The Chhattisgarh government is planning to use the abandon mines to store the fly ash even as its utilization is below 40%. According to the report of Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for 2014-15, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh  are better placed than Chhattisgarh in terms of fly ash utilization. Jharkhand however achieved 100% utilization of fly ash.

“The CIL management had given consent to use the six abandoned mines for storing fly ash,” Devendra Singh, Member Secretary of Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board (CECB), told Business Standard. The official formalities are being completed to start the work soon, he said, adding that the state government would be looking for more mines besides the six to use for fly ash dumping.

The SECL spokesperson confirmed that the abandoned underground mines would be handed over to the state government for fly ash utilization.

According to Singh, the use of mines would help the authorities to enhance the fly ash utilization percentage but it would not be a complete solution. “After all, the fly ash generation in Chhattisgarh is huge and it needed to be transported out of state to achieve full utilization,” he said. With 15 thermal power stations in operation, Chhattisgarh is generating about 22 million tonnes of fly ash annually.

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