A temporary coal shortage has emboldened the Indian government to press ahead with plans to develop 99 new coal projects with production of 427 million tonnes per year (mtpa), according to a briefing by Global Energy Monitor (GEM). Land for new coal projects continues to be auctioned despite the government’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 and despite the fact that 36% of capacity at operating mines goes unused.
Underutilized capacity at India’s existing mines (433 mtpa) is actually greater than projected capacity from India’s 99 new coal projects (427 mtpa), demonstrating that these new projects are unneeded.
India’s 427 mtpa of planned new coal mine capacity place it second in the world after China with 596 mtpa.
In some major mining regions, like Jharkhand and Odisha, the industry has over 100 million tonnes in unused capacity at active mine sites, amounting to over 40% of unused mine capacity in those states.
New mines would not open fast enough to meet coal demand in the short-term, and would be hampered by the same problems as existing mines, such as low labor productivity, competition from renewables, land acquisition issues, and infrastructure constraints.
The 99 new coal projects threaten to displace at least 165 villages and affect 87,630 families, of which 41,508 families live in scheduled areas of India (PESA), which have a predominant population of tribal communities.
Water shortages would be exacerbated by the new coal projects, increasing demand by 168,041 kiloliters per day. Of 427 mtpa in new capacity, 159 mtpa (37%) will be located in high risk water zones, while 230 mtpa (54%) is planned for extremely high water risk zones.