Western Coalfields Limited: Changing perception about coal industry

Nagpur-based Miniratna, Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) has achieved various milestones not just through its production but all through its corporate social responsibility. Apart from creating records in growth of production during last three months and especially in March 2017, WCL went all out in setting various milestones in producing employment, skill development,
eco- tourism and other out-of-box initiatives.

WCL has registered record 56 per cent growth in coal production during March, 2017 month-on-month basis and achieved 45.63 million tonnes coal production during FY 2016-17. During last quarter of FY 2016-17, WCL achieved record 30.1 per cent growth in coal production, 20.1 per cent growth in OB removal, 15.2 per cent growth in despatch compared to the corresponding period of FY 2015-16. The increased coal production enabled greater availability of coal to consumers.

Apart from the above mentioned achievement, it added many colorful feathers to the cap. The company has also launched many pioneering and widely appreciated initiatives by the efforts of Team WCL, towards bringing meaningful change in the lives of the populace residing in and around its command area out of which few prestigious initiatives are:-

  • WCL’s initiatives for gainful utilisation of water discharged from the mines for recharging ground water, irrigation and water supply for drinking under ‘Jal Sahayog’ and ‘K2K’as well as contribution in ‘JalyuktaShivar’ scheme, benefitted thousands of villagers. K2K project of WCL has been awarded with Gold award among top fifty projects of the country. Recently, WCL has also provided RO-treated water to the villagers of Nilgaon and soon another RO water plant is being installed in Patansongi village
    near Nagpur. Further gainfully utilising water discharged from the mines,
  • WCL is planning to supply water for irrigation through a MoU with the irrigation department of State Government.
    n Eco-mine tourism is the first of its kind in the country. The initiative was appreciated and specially mentioned by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India during his ‘Man Ki Baat’ on March 27, 2016. The motive of the initiative is to create awareness of coal mining and ecological balance among the populace. WCL has tied up with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation for this initiative on December 16, 2016 to attract Indian as well as foreign visitors.
  • WCL has trained about 6,400 PAPs and villagers living in and around of its command areas through four skill development centres, under project ‘Udaan’, ‘Shakti’, ‘Kisan’ and ‘Arogyya’ in entrepreneurship development, women empowerment, farmers/agro-based occupations, paramedic, nursing, computer education, and technical training like fitter, electrician, motor winding, machinist, welder, mobile repair, injection moulding, plastic extrusion, blow moulding, plastic processing, etc.
  • Extraction of sand from OB, is a prestigious project of WCL to support low-cost housing society. WCL has started utilisation of over burden for extraction of sand and supply it to Nagpur Improvement Trust under the MoU signed on January 1, 2017. A pilot project of making bricks using mix of clay from OB and ash from power plant is another ambitious project of WCL to support further low-cost housing schemes.
  • The company plans to permit cotton farming on the unused land of the company to support cottage industry and PAPs.
    Under Corporate Social Responsibility, WCL has contributed towards healthcare through cancer hospital; installation of escalators by Railways in Mumbai suburban Railway Stations; Abdul Kalam Eco Park at Chandrapur; stadium at Chirmur; providing cycles and installation of Sanitary Napkin Vending Machines; artificial limbs etc.
  • Diversion of Amb River in Umrer area is another great achievement.
  •  As part of their expansion plan, WCL is eyeing to get coal blocks in neighbouring states.

Introduced mine tourism in India

In a first of its kind initiative in India, Western Coalfields Limited has showcased the minimal environmental impact and the eco-friendlessness of  mining operations by introducing mine tourism for the public. Under this project, Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL) has created an eco-park in 15 acres of land which is between the Saoner and Gondegaon mines about forty kilometres away from Nagpur in Maharashtra and is offering a conducted tour of coal mines for the public in association with MTDC.

“People normally think and believe things to be polluted, unsafe and ecologically hazardous in coal mining areas and we have changed this perception of the people by developing barren land which lies between two mines into a spot of tourist interest,” chairman and managing director of WCL, Rajiv R Mishra said.

Going underground is a thrilling and memorable experience for every tourist and WCL team members are displaying all the major underground activities to these tourists in the mine. Tourists get to know how a miner goes inside through a man-riding system; what is the internal scene inside an underground mine and machines used for mining. If one wants to go inside after obtaining the necessary clearances, tourists would be provided with the entire dress needed to go inside the mines too.

Showcasing of real mines to the public and such ecological endeavours are common in Australia, USA, Canada, Finland, Germany, Norway, Japan, Chile, Bolivia and several other countries but new in India.

Diversion of Amb River: A big challenge won by WCL team

Coal mining is known as an activity against nature. While mining coal from mother earth, there is always a possibility of natural disturbances. Before September 2010, Umrer Area of WCL used to produce about 42.67 LTE per annum but due to unfortunate massive land slide (approximately 250 metres length) occurred in Eastern Quarry, which caused breach of Amb River into the mine resulting in extensive damage to 15/90 dragline and leading to one fatality of dragline operator. The landslide occurred due to presence of two unknown faults. Due to this accident, the coal production of Umrer area dipped to 23.19 LTE in 2010-11. The downfall of Umrer area led to the downfall of WCL as a whole.

Present management team of WCL took up a challenge and decided to reverse the path of Amb River. For WCL, it was the need of an hour to regain the lost glory and to overcome this dark phase. This earmarked the beginning of AMB River diversion – Phase IV. The diversion was of 2,750 metres in length with a total capital expenditure of Rs 64.11 crore. This investment gave an extra ten years life to mine and coal reserve of 20.58 MT, which may earn profit of Rs 1,217.56 crore to the company. The challenging task done by team WCL has changed the entire story of WCL, which helped in turning around the company.

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