Even as a green transition takes place with more corporates committing to renewables, the present power crisis in India has re-shifted the focus on India’s conventional fuel source. The country has the fourth largest coal reserves in the world – 344 billion metric tons as of March 2020 – and is responsible for at least 70 per cent of India’s power output. Despite this fact, there is a stigma associated with the coal mining industry that portrays it as something inherently evil.
Coal companies have been eager to change this perspective and present the other side of coal mining that is relatively unheard of. In many of the Coal India, EMIL and Adani coal project, re-forestation and land reclamation activities have been carried out to make up for the loss of flora and fauna. This is not all. Some projects undertaken by coal companies have transformed previously mined lands into green biomes.
Over the years, coal mining companies have transformed over 17 mining sites into eco-parks, recreational grounds, golf greens, underground museums, adventure sports, bird watching spots, water sport sites and many more. This shows the potential of old mining lands to become stable ecosystems that are not only sustainable but also aesthetically pleasing.
Such ventures can be undertaken by pioneers like Coal India, EMIL, Vedanta and Adani. Coal projects associated with these companies are already known for complying with environmental rules and promoting sustainable mining practices. In fact, Coal India’s subsidiary, Northern Coalfields Limited (NCL), developed the Mudwani Eco-park near the Jayant Open Cast Mine in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district. The park was one of the two inaugurated during Vriksharopan Abhiyan 2021 and covers an area of 8.41 Ha. The other was the 10 Ha Mine-II Eco-park in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu developed by the NLCIL.
However, one must remember that such projects are only feasible once mining activity stops and the mines are properly shut down. This puts the onus on mining companies to integrate sustainable mining practices in their daily operations. A perfect example is the Adani coal project in Parsa East & Kanta Basan (PEKB) coal block, Chhattisgarh. Allotted to RVUNL, Adani is in charge of mining operations as part of an MDO contract. The project area was around 2,700 Ha, with forest cover of over 70 per cent.
More than 5,600 trees have been transplanted with over 90 per cent success rate in the 3-4 years since the project started. The Group also established an in-house nursery which has nursed over 2,00,000 saplings since the project went operational. The overwhelmingly positive response to the PEKB project has ensured that every Adani coal project follows the same practice.
Coal is a valuable resource that has proved to be a dependable source of power. It is also relatively cheaper and affordable for third-world as well as developing nations. Eco-mine tourism has shown that it is possible to repopulate and reclaim mined areas contrary to popular belief. Perhaps it is high time the world realizes that sustainable mining is, in fact, beneficial to all stakeholders.