* Expects to raise output to 44 mln T by using modern
* Output in 2013/14 to fall 5 pct to 40 mln T- chairman
By Krishna N Das
NEW DELHI, Feb 18 Coal India unit
Western Coalfields expects to raise output by 10 percent to 44
million tonnes in the next fiscal year due to the use of more
sophisticated machinery in its mines, the unit's chairman said
Western Coalfield's first potential output increase in five
years will help India keep a lid on costly imports of coal at a
time its parent is struggling to boost production.
India is the world's third-largest importer of coal despite
sitting on what British energy group BP Plc ranks as the
fifth-largest reserve, mainly due to regulatory, environmental
and land acquisition delays in starting new indigenous mines and
expanding existing ones.
Western Coalfields has increased the use of loaders and
dumpers in its underground mines, is using more of conveyor
belts and has replaced hand-held drill machines by universal
drill machines that need less human involvement, Chairman Dinesh
Chandra Garg told Reuters by phone.
Garg said he could not predict which mine will help raise
Western Coalfields' production in 2014/15 as it runs 82 mines,
which accounted for about 9 percent of state-run Coal India's
output of 366.6 million tonnes in the April-January period.
Coal India contributes about 80 percent of the country's
output but has been unable to meet growing demand.
As a result, India's coal imports rose 21 percent to 152
million tonnes in 2013, with power producers buying most of
them, data from research firm OreTeam showed. Shipments could
touch 170 million tonnes in 2014, it added.
India's coal production is targeted to rise 8 percent to 604
million tonnes in 2013/14 and reach 795 million by 2016/17, Coal
Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said earlier this month. Actual
output has frequently fallen short of targets.
The shortfall in India has helped top suppliers such as
Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and the United States raise
their exports manifold over the years.
Though Western Coalfields' production will rise next year,
the fiscal year ending March 31 will see a fall of 5 percent to
40 million tonnes, Garg said.
"The drop in production is because of heavy rains in our
main operating state of Maharashtra (in western India). Rains
were 200 percent higher than last year and that had flooded many
of our mines," Garg added.
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)