Coal Reserves in India (Coal Mines) – UPSC

In this article, You will read Coal Reserves in India and Coal Mines in India – for UPSC IAS.

Coal

  • Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock with a high amount of carbon and hydrocarbons. 
  • Coal is classified as a nonrenewable energy source because it takes millions of years to form. Coal contains the energy stored by plants that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in swampy forests.
  • Coal is also called black gold.
  • Coal contains carbon, volatile matter, moisture, and ash & [in some cases Sulphur and phosphorous].
  • Mostly used for power generation and metallurgy.
  • Different varieties of coal arise because of differences in the kinds of plant material (coal type), degree of coalification (coal rank), and range of impurities (coal grade).

The distribution of coal in Indian is in two categories:

  • Gondwana Coalfields that are 250 million years old
  • Tertiary Coalfields that are 15 to 60 million years old. 

Gondwana Coalfields

  • Gondwana coal makes up to 98% of the total coal reserves in India and 99% of the coal production in India. 
  • Gondwana coal is free from moisture and contains phosphorus and sulphur
  • The carbon content in Gondwana coal is less compared to the Carboniferous coal(that is 350 million years old which is almost absent in India because of its much younger age).
  • Gondwana coal forms India’s metallurgical grade as well as superior quality coal.
  • The Damuda series (i.e. Lower Gondwana) possesses the best-worked coalfields accounting for 80 percent of the total coal production in India.
    • 80 out of 113 Indian coalfields are located in the rock systems of the Damuda series[named after Damodar river].
  • These basins occur in the valleys of certain rivers viz., the Damodar (Jharkhand-West Bengal); the Mahanadi (Chhattisgarh-Odisha); the Son (Madhya Pradesh Jharkhand); the Godavari and the Wardha (Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh); the Indravati, the Narmada, the Koel, the Panch, the Kanhan and many more.
  • The volatile compounds and ash (usually 13 – 30 percent) and don’t allow Carbon percentage to rise above 55 to 60 percent.

Tertiary Coal Fields

  • Carbon content is very low but is rich in moisture and sulphur.
  • Tertiary coalfields are mainly confined to extra-peninsular regions.
  • Important areas include Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himalayan foothills of Darjeeling in West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,  and Kerala.
  • Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Pondicherry also bear tertiary coal reserves [exceptions].

Formation of Coal

  • Coal is formed when dead plant matter decays into peat and is converted into coal by the heat and pressure of deep burial over millions of years.
    • Coal was formed around 300 million years ago when the earth was covered with swampy(marshy) forests.
    • As the plants grew, some died and fell into the swamp waters. New plants grew up to take their places and when these died still more grew.
    • In time, there was a thick layer of dead plants rotting in the swamp. The surface of the earth changed and water and dirt washed in, stopping the decaying process.
    • More plants grew up, but they too died and fell, forming separate layers. After millions of years, many layers had formed, one on top of the other.
    • The weight of the top layers and the water and dirt packed down the lower layers of plant matter.
    • Heat and pressure produced chemical and physical changes in the plant layers which forced out oxygen and left rich carbon deposits. In time, the material that had been planted became coal.
  • Coal is classified into four main types, or ranks: anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite.
  • These classifications are based on the amount of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen present in the coal.
  • Coal’s other constituents include hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, ash, and sulfur.
  • Some of the undesirable chemical constituents include chlorine and sodium.
  • In the process of transformation (coalification), peat is altered to lignite, lignite is altered to sub-bituminous, sub-bituminous coal is altered to bituminous coal, and bituminous coal is altered to anthracite.
Formation of Coal upsc

Types of Coal

On the basis of carbon content, it can be classified into the following three types:

Anthracite

  • This is the best quality of coal and contains 80 to 95 percent carbon. It has very little volatile matter and a negligibly small proportion of moisture.
  • It is very hard, compact, jet black coal having semi-metallic lustre.
  • It has the highest heating value and is the most prized among all the varieties of coal
  • In India, it is found only in Jammu and Kashmir (in Kalakot) and that too in small quantities.

Bituminous

  • This is the most widely used coal. It varies greatly in composition in carbon content (from 60 to 80 percent) and moisture. It is dense, compact, and is usually of black colour.
  • It does not have traces of original vegetable material from which it has been formed.
  • Its calorific value is very high due to high proportion of carbon and low moisture content.
  • By virtue of this quality, bituminous coal is used not only for steam raising and heating purposes but also for the production of coke and gas.
  • Most of the bituminous coal is found in Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh.

Lignite

  • Also known as brown coal, lignite is lower-grade coal and contains about 40 to 55 percent carbon.
  • It represents the intermediate stage in the alteration of woody matter into coal. Its colour varies from dark to black-brown.
  • Its moisture content is high (over 35 percent) so that it gives out much smoke but little heat.
  • It is found in Palna of Rajasthan, Neyveli of Tamil Nadu, Lakhimpur of Assam, and Karewa of Jammu and Kashmir.

Peat

  • This is the first stage of transformation of wood into coal and contains less than 40 to 55 percent carbon, sufficient volatile matter, and a lot of moisture.
  • It is seldom sufficiently compact to make a good fuel without compressing into bricks. Left to itself, it bums like wood, gives less heat, emits more smoke, and leaves a lot of ash after burning.
Types-of-coal-Peat-Lignite-Bituminous-Anthracite-Coal

Distribution of Coal in India

coal fields in india map

Jharkhand:

  • Most of the coalfields are located in a narrow belt running in the east-west direction almost along the 24°N latitude.
  • The Jharia coalfield: The Jharia coalfield lies to the southwest of Dhanbad city and covers an area of 453 sq km. It is one of the oldest and the richest coal fields of India and has been recognized as the storehouse of the best metallurgical coal in the country.
  • The Bokaro coalfield: The Bokaro coalfield in Hazaribagh district lies within 32 km of the western end of the Jharia coalfield.
  • Other reserves: Girdih, Karanpura, etc.

Chhattisgarh:

  • Chhattisgarh holds the third position with respect to coal reserves but occupies the second position, after Jharkhand, so far as production is concerned.
  • The Korba coalfield: The Korba coalfield stretches over an area of 515 sq km in the valleys of Hasdo (a tributary of the Mahanadi) and its tributaries (Ahram and Kurang) in Korba district.
  • Other coalfields: Hasdo-Arand, Chirmiri, Jhilmili, Johila.
Gondwana coal fields in Chhattisgarh upsc

Orissa:

  • Orissa is the second-largest state with regard to coal reserves but is the third-largest producer of coal contributing a little over 15.31 percent of the total coal production of the country.
  • Most of the deposits are found in Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh districts.
  • The Talcher field-stretching eastward from Talcher town to Rairkhol in Dhenkanal and Sambalpur districts ranks second in reserves after Raniganj. Most of the coal is utilized in thermal power and fertilizer plants at Talcher.
  • Other coal fields:
    • Rampur-Himgir coalfields in the districts of Sambalpur.
    • The lb river coalfield in Sambalpur and Gangpur districts.

Madhya Pradesh:

  • Madhya Pradesh is the fourth largest coal-producing state of India.
  • Sigrauli coalfield in Sidhi and Shahdol districts is the largest coalfield of Madhya Pradesh. This field supplies coal to thermal power plants at Singrauli and Obra.
  • Pench-Kanhan-Tawa in Chhindwara district is another important coalfield of Madhya Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh & Telangana:

  • Andhra Pradesh produces about 9.72 percent of India’s coal.
  • Most of the coal reserves are in the Godavari valley spread over the districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam, East Godavari, and West Godavari.
  • The actual workable collieries are situated at Singareni and Kothagudam.
  • Almost the entire coal is of non-coking variety.
  • These are the southernmost coalfields of India and a source of coal supply to most of south India.

Maharashtra:

  • Though Maharashtra has only 3 percent reserves, the state accounts for over 9 percent of the production of coal in India.
  • Most of the coal deposits are found in the Kamptee coalfields in Nagpur District; Wardha valley, Ghughus, Ballarpur, and Warora in Chandrapur district and the Wun field in Yavatmal district.

West Bengal:

  • Although West Bengal produces only 6 percent of India’s coal, the state has over 11 percent of the coal reserves of the country.
  • Burdwan, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum, Darjeeling, and Jalpaiguri are the chief producing districts.
  • Raniganj is the largest coalfield of West Bengal.
Rift valley with coal seams

Tertiary Coal

  • Tertiary coal fields mainly occur in association with limestone and slates of either Eocene or Oligocene-Miocene age (15 to 60 million years).
  • They are mainly confined to extra peninsular regions. some of which are:

Assam:

  • The major coalfields in Assam are the Makum, Nazira, etc
  • The Makum coalfield in the Sibsagar district is the most developed field.
  • Assam coals contain very low ash and high coking qualities but the sulphur content is high, as a result of which this coal is not suitable for metallurgical purposes.

Meghalaya:

  • Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia hills are believed to have deposits of tertiary coal belonging to the lower Eocene.

Arunachal Pradesh:

  • The Upper Assam Coal belt extends eastwards as NamchickNamrup coalfield in the Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Other coal fields are in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

Lignite

  • There was a phenomenal increase in the production of lignite coal after independence.
  • Areas of lignite production are as follows:
    • Tamil Nadu accounts for 90 percent of the reserves and about 71 percent of the production of lignite in India. The Neyveli Lignite fields of the Cuddalore district, extending over an area of 480 sq km, have estimated reserves of 4,150 million tonnes are the most important lignite field of India. The other lignite reserves of considerable importance in Tamil Nadu are those of Jayamkondacholapuram of Trichy district, Mannargudi, and East of Veeranam.
    • Gujarat: Lignite occurs in Kuchchh district at Umarsar, Lefsi, Jhalrai, and Baranda and also in Bharuch district.
    • Jammu and Kashmir: Lignite deposits belonging to Pliocene or even a newer age have been found here in sufficient quantity. The main lignite fields occur in the Shaliganga River, continuing to the northwest up to the Nichahom area in the Handwara region of the Baramula district. The lignite here is of poor quality.
    • Kerala, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Pondicherry also produce some amount of lignite coal.
coal-fields and lignite in india upsc

Peat

  • Peat is confined to a few areas only. It occurs in Nilgiri hills at an elevation of over 1,800 m.
  • In the Kashmir valley, peat occurs in the alluvium of the Jhelum and in swampy grounds in higher valleys.
  • In West Bengal peat beds at depths ranging from 2 to 11 metre have been noted in Kolkata and its suburbs.
  • In the Ganga delta, there are layers of peat which are composed of forest and rice plants.

Problems of Coal Mining in India

  • The distribution of coal is uneven. Most of the north plains and western parts of India are devoid of coal. This involves high transport cost to carry heavy commodities like coal over long distances.
  • Indian coal has high ash content and low caloric value. The ash content varies from 20 to 30 percent and sometimes exceeds 40 percent. This reduces the energy output of coal and complicates the problem of ash disposal.
  • A large percentage of coal is taken out from underground mines where the productivity of labour and machinery is very low.
  • There are heavy losses due to fires in the mines and at pit heads. Pilferage at several stages also adds to losses. This leads to a hike in the price of coal and sets off a vicious circle of price spiral in the economy.
  • Mining and utilization of coal leads to the serious problem of environmental pollution. The open cast mining ravages the whole area converting it into a rugged and ravenous land.
  • The coal dust in mines and near pitheads creates health hazards to workers and their families.
  • Safety measures against environmental pollution caused by mining and the utilization of coal are very costly and complicated and are beyond the reach of ordinary entrepreneurs.

Conservation of coal

  • Conservation of coal implies that every bit of energy that can be obtained from coal must be obtained and every bit of by-product that can be recovered must be recovered. Conservation of coal is an integral part of mine planning and operation.
  • Following measures are suggested for the conservation of coal in India.
    • Coking coal should be used for the metallurgical industry only.
    • Low-grade coal should be washed and blended with superior quality coal in requisite proportion and used in industries.
    • Selective mining should be discouraged and all possible coal from the mines should be taken out.
    • New reserves should be discovered and new techniques should be adopted.
    • Small and uneconomic collieries should be amalgamated and be made economically viable units.

Coking Coal vs. Non-Coking Coal

Coking Coal or Metallurgical CoalThermal Coal or Non-Coking Coal or Steaming coal
High carbon content, less moisture, less sulphur, less ash. Sulphur is very bad for iron and steel industry.Sulphur content is high and hence cannot be used in iron and steel industry.
Used to create coke. Coke is produced by heating bituminous coal without air to extremely high temperatures.Creating coke using this coal is not economical. Moreover, traces of sulphur will remain even after coking.
Coking coal is an essential ingredient in steel production.Thermal coal is used to generate power.
Major producers: Australia, Canada, United States.
Major exporters: Australia, Canada, United States.
China imports a huge amount of coking coal from Australia. India also imports coking coal.
Major producers: China, Australia, USA, Russia.
Major exporters: Australia, South Africa.
Coal Reserves in India by State
Name of the stateReserves in billion tonne% of total reserves
1.   JHARKHAND80.7126.76
2.   ODISHA75.0724.89
3.   CHATTISHGARH52.5317.42
4.   WEST BENGAL31.3110.38
5.   MADHYA PRADESH25.678.51
6.   ANDHRA PRADESH22.487.45
7.   MAHARASTRA10.983.64
8.   OTHERS2.810.95
Coal Reserves in India by State
Coal Production in India by State

All data from 2013-2014. For latest data you must follow newspapers/India year Book or Reports published by Ministry of Coal.

Coking Coal Production by State

  • Jharkhand [More than 90% of India’s Coking coal comes from Jharkhand]
  • West Bengal
  • Madhya Pradesh

Non Coking Coal Production By State

  • Chhattisgarh
  • Odisha
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Jharkhand
  • Andhra Pradesh

Total Coal Production By State

  • Chhattisgarh
  • Jharkhand
  • Odisha
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Andhra Pradesh

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