Recurrent strikes at Mahanadi Coalfields lead to depleted coal stocks

MCL's Balram and Kaniha coal mines have been facing intermittent shutdowns
Recurrent strikes at coal mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) have led to depleted coal stocks for both pit-head and non-pit-head thermal power plants in Odisha.

Data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) show that no power-generating station has coal inventory to last for even a week. GMR Kamalanga, a subsidiary of GMR Energy with its plant at Kamalanga near Dhenkanal has only a day's stock of coal. All other power plants including NTPC's 3000 Mw super thermal power station at Kaniha and the pit head plant at Talcher Thermal have stocks ranging between three and six days.

Power generators have been struggling to build a stockpile of coal ever since the mishap at MCL's  Bharatpur open pit mining in July this year. A strata failure triggered landslide, leading to casualties and jeopardizing the lives of coal mine workers. The incident sparked outrage among workers and paralyzed coal production and despatches to power plants and other coal consuming industries for two weeks.

MCL's Balram and Kaniha coal mines have been facing intermittent shutdowns, casting questions on the economic viability of these mines. The production stoppages at these key operative mines have thrown a challenge to MCL which has set a target to achieve 160 million tonnes (mt) in coal production in this fiscal year. After South Eastern Coalfields (SECL), MCL is the second largest producing coal subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL).

Kaniha open cast mining which boasts of 10 mt in annual output, has witnessed a record 1269 hours of work stoppage in FY20. In cumulative terms, Kaniha open pit mining project where 25,000 tonnes of coal is excavated each day has faced shutdown for more than 52 days in this financial year. Likewise, Balram open cast project has been out of operations for 42 days due to stir.

At Talcher Coalfields, all coal mines of MCL have suffered disruptions. Lingraj coal mine though least affected has suffered closure for 15 work days in this financial year.

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