India and coal
Coal is the main commercial energy fuel in India, amounting to 61% of installed electrical capacity in July 2016.
India's Ministry of Coal estimates the country has "proved" coal reserves at 125.9 billion tonnes and coal resources at 301 billion tonnes; however Indian coal is of low quality as it has a high ash content.
2007-2012: The Rush to Build Coal Plants
2007-2011: The rush begins
As shown in Table 1 below, India's coal plant capacity was relatively stagnant through the end of the 10th Plan on March 31, 2007. Since then, growth has been rapid, including a 79% increase in capacity from March 31, 2007 through May 31, 2012 (mostly since the beginning of 2010) and an additional 76% increase represented by projects currently under construction. 
Table 1: Coal plant capacity additions since 1985, and current capacity under construction
|Date||Capacity (MW)||Growth (MW)||Growth rate||Period|
|31-May-12||114,782||50,831||79%||(5 years, 2 months)|
|Under construction 5/31/12||87,122||76%|
2012: The plant boom shows signs of slowing, but hundreds of projects remain in the pipeline
In August 2011, a study by Prayas Energy Group found approximately 590,000 megawatts (MW) of coal projects in the pipeline, having received or expecting imminent environmental approval. Using data from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Prayas found that 192,913 MW of coal and gas capacity had received environmental clearance, with another 508,907 MW in the pipeline and expected to be approved, for a total of 701,820 MW. Of this total, Prayas estimated that coal accounts for 84%, or 589,529 MW.
However, since the release of the Prayas study there has been a major slowdown among planners of new coal capacity.
As shown in Table 2, 41,650 MW of projects were deferred (i.e. progress was on hold) as of May 31, 2012, and an additional 22,420 MW of projects had been cancelled. The reasons for the slowdown were multiple: (1) Dramatic rises in the cost of imported coal; (2) Insufficiency in domestic coal output; (3) An unfolding domestic crisis over the integrity of the coal allocation process, known as "Coalgate," (4) Difficulties obtaining financing. Nevertheless, 87,122 MW or projects were under construction as of May 31, 2012 and an additional 68,200 MW of projects were in advanced development, having achieved most milestones (permits, water, land, coal, and financing).
Table 2: Summary statistics for proposed coal plants in India (May 2012)
|Status||# of Plants||Capacity (MW)||Annual Tons of CO2|
|Newly commissioned (since 1/1/2010)||62||37,378||221,042,309|
Ultra Mega Power Projects
For more details, see Ultra Mega Power Projects in India.
The program of Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP) was introduced in 2005 by the Ministry of Power in association with the Central Electricity Authority and the Power Finance Corporation to streamline the commissioning of large 4,000 MW thermal coal plants.
The Ministry of Power stated that the projects would be 'super critical' coal plants which would either be located at the pithead of specific coal deposits or at coastal projects to be based on imported coal. In an attempt to make the projects attractive for private sector investors, the Ministry of Power, the Central Electricity Authority and the Power Finance Corporation determined that it "was deemed necessary to provide the site, fuel linkage in captive mining blocks, water and obtain environment and forests clearance, substantial progress on land acquisition leading to possession of land, through a Shell Company." The shell companies were also given the initial task for finalizing agreements with power purchasers.
Financing of India's coal plants
Financing of India's coal rush is an under-studied topic. The Power Finance Corporation is the lead government-owned entity, and it is the "nodal agency" for the program of Ultra Mega Power Projects. International public investment institutions such as the World Bank have also played a significant role in financing India's coal plants, and that role has been highly controversial due to the application of funds from the Clean Development Mechanism for new coal plants. Private equity has been a smaller factor but is growing rapidly.
Domestic Coal Mining
(in million tonnes)
Note: On the latest developments, see the Geological Survey of India, "Coal Resource Position in India".
India has almost negligible coal exports, estimated to be at only 2 million tonnes in 2012.
Note: 1 metric ton (tonne) = 1.10231 short tons
(*Estimates are from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's International Energy Statistics.)
India coal ports
For a sortable list of operating, proposed, and retired coal ports and terminals in India, including location and capacity, go to Coal terminals.
Overseas coal mines
Health costs of coal
The 2013 study "Coal Kills: An assessment of death and disease caused by India's dirtiest energy source," conducted by the NGOs Conservation Action Trust (CAT), Urban Emissions, and Greenpeace looked at emissions data of 111 coal-fired power plants (generation capacity of 121GW) and found that in 2011-2012:
- emissions from Indian coal plants resulted in 80,000 to 115,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases from exposure to total PM10 pollution; and
- the monetary cost associated with the health impacts of coal exceed Rs.16,000 to 23,000 crores (USD $3.3 to 4.6 billion) per year.
New coal plants
According to the 2011 report "Thermal Power Plants on The Anvil : Implications And Need For Rationalisation" by Prayas (Initiatives in Health, Energy, Learning and Parenthood) -- a non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Pune -- the India Ministry has given environmental clearances to coal and gas-based power plants whose capacity totals 192,913 MW, while another 508,907 MW are at various stages in the environmental clearance cycle, for a total of 701,820 MW. Coal-based plants account for 84% of the projects. These additions are more than six times the currently installed thermal capacity of 113,000 MW.
Many of the projects in pipeline will be geographically concentrated in a few areas: 30 districts (4.7% of the total 626 districts in India) will have more than half of the proposed plants, with their capacity adding up to about 380,000MW. Fifteen districts each have plants with capacities totaling 10,000 MW or more. Districts Janjgir-Champa and Raigarh in Chhatisgadh have the highest concentration of proposed plants in the country, with 30,470 MW and 24,380 MW planned, followed by Nellore in AP with 22,700 MW. The districts of Rewa (17,820 MW), Singrauli (15,240 MW), Sonbhadra (7,638 MW), Sidhi (5,240 MW, not in the top 30) and Allahabad (5,280 MW, not in top 30) are adjoining, and add up to a proposed capacity of 51,218 MW.
The private sector accounts for 73% of all projects, with 10 private corporate groups planning to build about 160,000 MW.
Arrest of indigenous rights activists
On May 28, 2011, two indigenous rights activists, Ramesh Agrawal and Dr Harihar Patel, were arrested in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh and denied release on bail.
The state police charged the two men with “circulating defamatory material”, “disrupting public order” and “causing alarm and panic among the public” at a May 8, 2010 mandatory public consultation, held by the state pollution board at Tamnar village, relating to the proposed expansion of a coal-fired plant run by Jindal Steel and Power.
Agrawal and Patel expressed concerns that the expansion would lead to the forcible acquisition of lands from the surrounding local communities by the authorities. The two activists had objected to the proposal and cited an official inspection report which stated that the expansion began before the mandatory clearances were given. Ramesh Agrawal also successfully petitioned India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests to temporarily suspend the terms of reference for the expansion. Following a complaint relating to the delay, the state authorities decided to arrest the two activists.
Ramesh Agrawal works for the environmental rights organization Jan Chetna, and Dr Harihar Patel practices indigenous medicine. They had been actively campaigning against the pollution caused by existing industrial projects, including coal plants, and the potential negative environmental impact of proposed industrial projects in central Chhattisgarh. The two activists have been at the forefront of the campaign for the public disclosure of information relating to projects which affect local Adivasi (Indigenous) communities and for ensuring that these are available to the communities. Their arrest, Amnesty International believes, is intended to stop their peaceful campaign activities.
The two activists were sent to Raigarh prison until June 3, 2011, and a local court rejected their appeals for release on bail on June 2. Ramesh Agrawal, who complained of hypertension, was taken for treatment at a government-run hospital where he is being kept chained to his bed.
World Bank financing
In October 2010 Green groups criticized the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) for its expected final approval of hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized federal financing for the 4,000 megawatts (MW) Sasan coal power plant and mine in India.
The groups also accused the Bank of falsely linking renegotiation of the coal financing to a renewable energy project.
“Ex-Im Bank flip flopped on this massive climate-damaging project--and belly flopped on the first major test of the agency’s carbon policy,” said Michelle Chan, director of the economic policy program at Friends of the Earth.
Community impacts and resistance
The United Nations estimates that more than 25 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people live without electricity. Yet many communities protest new coal mines and plants because it displaces them from their land, and they do not receive the electricity generated.
August 2007: 6,000 people face displacement in Madhya Pradesh
Five villages -- Sidhikhurg, Sidhikala, Tiyara, Jhanjhi, and Harrhawa -- covering approximately 3,000 acres and with a population of 10,000 people are slated for displacement by the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project in the far western corner of Madhya Pradesh, a state located in central India. The project will use caol from coal mines located 20 to 25 kilometers away, in Mohar, Amlori, and Chatrasal. The project is sponsored by Reliance Power.
July 2010: Two killed, 150 injured in Andhra Pradesh
On July 14, 2010, police in Adhra Pradesh's Srikakulam district fired on farmers and fisherman protesting a 2,640 MW coal plant under construction by Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC), killing two. In addition, 150 people were injured, including 45 policemen, during clashes between protesters and police. In the wake of the violence, police were deployed in about a dozen villages and banned assembly by more than five persons.
January 2010: Hanakon thermal project shelved after intense protest; protesters tortured
On July 18, 2009, thousands rallied in Karwar to protest the proposed Hanakon thermal station. The rally began at the Maladevi ground, and was followed by a meeting at Savitha circle. A series of speakers denounced the project as a threat to a biologically sensitive region, and criticized the company's suppression of protest. The protest passed the office of Ind Bharat Company, sponsor of the project. Protesters allegedly pelted the offices with stones, then attempted to block the national highway. A coalition of 24 groups submitted a joint memorandum opposing the project. Following a call for a bandh, or general strike, in response to police violence against protesters in Hanakon village, schools and colleges closed in August 2009. The bandh was also observed by shopkeepers of Nandanagadda area of Karwar. Students from multiple colleges marched to primary and high schools in Karwar, closing in each school. The project was shelved in January 2010. According to S R Nayak, chairman of the State Human Rights Commission, police tortured agitators in custody. During a hearing sponsored by the Commission, 40 people testified, including 28 victims of torture at the hands of police.
January 2011: 25 people injured in Chhattisgarh protests
On January 17, 2011, at least 25 people were injured and over a hundred were taken into custody during protests by farmers against land acquisition by KSK Energy Ventures Limited, sponsors of the 3,600 MW KSK Mahanadi Power Project at Nariyara village in the Akaltara district of Chhattisgarh, about 170 km from the state capital Raipur. At issue in the protests is the prime quality of the agricultural land being made available for an estimated 40,000 MW of power plants planned for the Janjgir-Champa district. State Congress president Dhanendra Sahu told reporters, "It's a foolish decision, Janjgir-Champa has highly productive farm land and also has access to irrigation facilities. This is a conspiracy by the state government to hand over farmers' prime land to industries."
February 2011: Two killed, 25 injured in Andhra Pradesh
On February 28, 2011, in a set of clashes sparked by construction of the Bhavanapadu Thermal Power Project by East Coast Energy, police in Srikakulam fired into villagers, killing two people and injuring nearly 25 others. The plant at the center of the violence was in the same district as the coal plant where two people were killed the previous July 2010, protesting the Nagarjuna Construction Company Sompeta Thermal Plant. The dead were identified as Sirapu Yerraiah (36) of Sirapuvani Peta and J. Nageswara Rao (35) of Akashalakkavaram. At least two of the injured were hit at close range with rubber bullets. Police used guns, teargas, and lathis against villagers, who used stones and sticks. After police threw smoke bombs in Vadditandra village, 50 houses were gutted. A police jeep was burned by villagers.
April 2011: Four killed in protests against anti-encroachment drive in Jharkand
The state of Jharkhand is home to one of the largest Adivasi (tribal) populations in India. It is also the location of an estimated 40% of the country’s deposits of coal, iron ore, uranium and other minerals. Jharkhand’s Adivasis have farmed and hunted on the land for millennia, but do not hold title deeds, but as the original inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, Adivasis have ancient land rights protected by law. They are, however, being forced to leave their ancestral lands to make way for new mines, steel mills and hydroelectric projects, with little or no compensation.
Following resistance by local residence against house demolitions at Matkoria, four people were killed in clashes with police attempting to clear land owned by Bharat Coking Coal Limited. In addition, 21 people were injured and 27 arrested. Among the arrested were former ministers Bacha Singh and OP lal, Congress MLA Manan Mallick, and deputy mayor Niraj Singh. A curfew was imposed on Dhanbad town. Among those killed in the fighting was Vikash Kuman, an auto driver. Another fatality was that of Sanjay Paswan.The protesters blocked National Highway 32 between Dhanbad and Bokaro for several hours. Police used lathis and teargas to disperse protesters. A Mob set fire to offices of Bharat Coking Coal Limited at Kunsunda and Godhar. Protesters also set on fire a police check post in Matkuriya as well as three police vehicles. Nine people were reported in critical condition with bullet wounds. Among the injured were a half dozen members of the media, including four camera men. Most of those being subjected to the anti-encroachment drive had settled in the area 80 years earlier.
May 2011: Mango farmers protest coal plants in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district
Farmers marched to protest coal plants in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, in an area known as the Konkan Coast. The protests were organized by the Ratnagiri Zilla Jagruk Manch, an organization leading a campaign against seven thermal power plants proposed for the district. In Pawas, Ratnagiri district, villagers protested with a hunger strike.
In July 2011, JSW Energy - an Indian power producer controlled by the billionaire Jindal family - delayed expansion of a 3,200 MW coal plant in Ratnagiri as it waits for coal-pricing “clarity” from Indonesia and Australia.
On June 2, 2011, a 15-member motorbike gang shot dead a realtor and two others at the Asansol courthouse in India, which the police said was likely a rivalry between coal mafias. Councillor Rohit Nunia from Kulti, a town 30km from Asansol whose municipality is run by a Trinamul-Congress alliance, is believed by police to be involved in coal smuggling and seeking revenge for an attempt on his life in December 2010, although a Left Front leader claimed the coal connection crosses political parties.
The 15 youths appeared suddenly, called realtor Ram Lakshman Yadav's name, and began shooting. Within seconds, the realtor, a guard, and Mukesh Singh, had slumped to the ground while the gang chased Kamalesh Singh to the basement. Mukesh was sent to a hospital in Durgapur while the other three were declared dead on arrival at an Asansol hospital. Yadav had been riddled with 10 bullets, sources said, and the other two slain men too had multiple wounds.
Jagmohan, the deputy inspector-general, said the slain realtor had two cases pending against him, one for possession of illegal arms in 1994 and the other for a murder attempt in 1999. Another officer said three suspects had been detained, including CPI councillor Nunia: “An attempt was made on Nunia’s life six months ago but he escaped unhurt. He was involved in smuggling coal out of the IISCO factory."
September 2011: Moving Planet day of action
On September 24, an Indian delegation and US mountaintop removal activists will take part in "Moving Planet" day in support of fossil fuel-alternative energy, in West Virginia and India. The India delegation is calling on the World Bank to follow through with its proposal to dramatically cut funding for coal-burning power stations.
September 2011: Greenpeace calls for moratorium on new coal projects in Singrauli
After releasing the 2011 report, "Singrauli: The Coal Curse," Greenpeace called for a moratorium on new coal mining activities in the Singrauli region, based on the findings of a Greenpeace team in the region that the projects "deprive the livelihood of displaced people and ruin their health." According to Priya Pillai, the communities are living in an atmosphere which is full of coal dust: "The people gave up their land for power that doesn't reach them."
In Singrauli, the Mahan, Chhatrasal, Amelia and Dongri Tal II forest blocks, which were earlier categorised as 'no go', are awaiting approval for coal mining from the government. Officially, 5,872.18 hectares of forest in the Singrauli region had been marked for non-forest use after the Forest Conservation Act came into force in 1980. According to the divisional forest officer of Singrauli, another 3,229 hectares have been proposed for such activities.
Singrauli is all set to become the country's "power capital" with a number of power plants coming up in Madhya Pradesh, apart from the nine open cast coal mines which are going to start production by 2014. The combined investment of all these projects is estimated to be over Rs 1 lakh crore.
November 2011: Activist nun who fought Indian mining companies brutally murdered
In mid-November 2011 Sister Valsa John, an anti-coal activist in India, was killed in her village of Pachwara, a small community in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. She was allegedly killed by individuals hired by coal mining companies. The individuals beat and hacked her to death. Sister Valsa was 52 and took her vows was a member of Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. It was reported that on numerous occasions she had gone to the police after threats where made on her life. The following was written in the Globe and Mail following her death:
- She was one of the remarkable breed of Indian religious figures who are grassroots social activists, who immerse themselves in the most marginalized and impoverished communities and work on literacy, basic health care and human rights. Sister Valsa said she did Jesus’s work by teaching the aboriginal people – known in India as adivasi or “tribals” – about their rights to their land.
On November 20, 2011 seven residents of Pachwara and adjoining Aloopara village, were arrested for the killing of Sister Valsa John. The Sister's family in the India region of Kerala had alleged she faced death threats from the "mining mafia" in the area and was killed because of her campaign against the Panam Coal Company. However, police alleged that that locals were responsible for her death instead.
Prior to being killed, Sister Valsa John stood up for a rape victim in her community and a police report filed for the case. The alleged rapist, arrested days after the murder and later charged with that too, reportedly told the police that Sister Valsa was “an agent” of a private coalmine company.
As of 2011, India has become the world's second largest source of carbon credits, or Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), and has attracted foreign companies who trade them to the West. To qualify for saleable credits, companies in "developing" countries must demonstrate their emission reductions go beyond their "business as usual" plans. But according to July 2008 American diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, most credits certified in India are questionable and do not meet international standards. The cable, written by staff at the United States Consulate in Mumbai, quote a senior Indian carbon credit assessor admitting no projects in India meet the international benchmark. R K Sethi, head of India's Clean Development Mechanism Authority, admitted his colleagues simply take "the project developer at his word" when they approve carbon credit applications. Eva Filzmoser of CDM Watch, which campaigns for a more rigorous carbon credit system, said the cable effectively dismissed Indian schemes as "a source of extra revenue for projects that would have happened anyway." Thirty-three coal power plants were among 1700 carbon credit project bids in India, and four of the power stations are among 700 projects approved to date.
A 2011 Stockholm Environment Institute report found that project documents for Indian Clean Development Mechanism projects "inflate the benefits of switching from subcritical to supercritical technology. Specifications of technologies currently available in the market suggest the relative efficiency and emissions improvements are likely to be on the order of 2 to 4%. In contrast, these coal projects are claiming improvements on the order of at least 11%, on average."
Coal Block Auctions 2020
In June 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi auctioned 41 coal mining blocks to private companies for commercial operation without limits on end use. The number of blocks was later revised to 38. As of September 2020, the new auctions consisted of the following mines:
For state-by-state maps, tables, and overviews, see:
- Andhra Pradesh and coal
- Bihar and coal
- Chhattisgarh and coal
- Gujarat and coal
- Haryana and coal
- Jharkhand and coal
- Karnataka and coal
- Madhya Pradesh and coal
- Maharashtra and coal
- Odisha and coal
- Punjab and coal
- Rajasthan and coal
- Tamil Nadu and coal
- Uttar Pradesh and coal
- West Bengal and coal
Citizens Groups Tracking Coal Power and Mining in India
- Conservation Action Trust
- Environmental Protection Group, Orissa
- India Youth Climate Network
- Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee
- Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group
- Kuntala Lahiri Dutta Australia
- Mines, Minerals and People
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- The figure for current capacity as of May 31, 2012 comes from Table 2, "Summary statistics for proposed coal plants in India," which is derived from the complete table shown in Proposed coal plants in India
- "Thermal Power Plants on the Anvil," Prayas Energy Group, August 2011.
- For plant-by-plant information, see Proposed coal plants in India.
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- "Activist nun who fought Indian mining companies brutally murdered" The Globe and Mail, Stephanie Nolen, November 18, 2011.
- "Seven arrested for nun's killing in Jharkhand" NDTV, November 20, 2011.
- "Hounded by those she had fought for" Manoj Prasad, Indian Express, November 21, 2011.
- Dean Nelson, "Polluting Indian firms awarded hundreds of millions in carbon credits" The Telegraph, Sep. 28, 2011.
- Michael Lazarus and Chelsea Chandler, Coal Power in the CDM: Issues and Options 2011 Stockholm Environment Institute Report, p.7.
- Narendra Modi launches auction process for 41 coal blocks for commercial mining The Hindu, June 28, 2020
Related SourceWatch articles
- Proposed coal plants in India
- Tata Power
- Tata Ultra Mega
- India and nuclear power
- U.S.- India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative
- Global use and production of coal
- Australia and coal
- Britain and coal
- China and coal
- Colombia and coal
- Germany and coal
- Indonesia and coal
- Japan and coal
- New Zealand and coal
- South Africa and coal
- Coal terminals
- United States and coal
- Orlando de Guzman, "India's coal rush: The country's dependence on coal is leaving a dirty trail of violence, landlessness and poverty", 101 East, Al Jazeera, March 23, 2012. (This is a 25 minute long documentary on problems with coal mining in the coal belt of Jharkhand and West Bengal.)
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- DETAILS OF COAL BLOCKS ALLOCATED AS ON 23.06.2011