West Bengal government hopes to utilise the resources of the Deocha Pachami coal block, which was allotted to the state-owned power producer, saying it may explore "merchant mining" in the long run only after its own requirement is met, a state minister said on Wednesday.
In June this year, the state government-owned thermal power producer West Bengal Power Development Corporation (WBPDCL) was allocated the Deocha Pachami Harinsingha Dewanganj Coal Mines in Birbhum district for generating power from its five plants having an aggregate capacity of 5500 megawatts.
The coal block has an estimated reserve of 2,102 million tonnes of coal.
"When the PDCL's own requirement of coal is enough, then, one can look at the possibility of merchant mining," said state Finance Minister Amit Mitra.
Mitra, who is also in charge of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise, MSME and Textiles, said, "Since it has the world's second largest reserve, it has the potential for huge extraction. Depending on the exploration outcome and MDO's lifting capacity, if it appears in the long run that the reserve is large enough for the state is for its own requirement, then it may approach the Centre for merchant mining, but not now."
He said investments worth at least Rs 60,000 crore would be required for the project, adding, depending on the coal block exploitation, the investment may go up to Rs 1 lakh crore.
The project is expected to provide 1.10 lakh of direct and indirect employment, he added.
"The state remains optimistic about the project and utilising the resources. PDCL would also explore advanced technology for MDOs to work on," he said.
"The process of exploration has been planned," he said.
Notably, the Deocha Pachami coal block was earlier offered jointly to West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam. But subsequently, others backed out of the asset allegedly citing cost and complexities in extracting the resources.
The state has about 228 mines, mainly coal, and also has a reserve of 35 billion tonnes, which is low ash and sulphur content coal, he said at the Global Mining Summit 2018, organised by CII in Kolkata.
Mitra said the state government has the vision of creating a mining equipment manufacturing and precision technology hub.
he pointed out while India's mining sector is growing at 7.3 per cent, the expenditure on exploration is extremely low, amounting to 0.3 per cent of the total global spends on exploration.
(With inputs from agencies.)