Coal India unit halts operations at key coalfields

Bhubaneswar: Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), a unit of the state-run Coal India Ltd, on Wednesday halted operations at its key coalfields in Odisha following protests by local people, a company official said.

All mining operations were halted at the Talcher Coalfields in Angul district, about 170 km from here, after hundreds of local residents reached the mines and forced workers and employees to vacate the area.

“Even staff and officers were forced to vacate the field offices,” a senior company official told IANS.

Local people have called for an indefinite strike in the area from Wednesday in support of the residents of Bhalugadia, a nearby village who have been staging a road blockade near MCL’s Hingula mines in the area for the past three weeks demanding jobs in the company.

As a result, the operations at the Hingula mines have been affected and the company has been losing 10,000 tonnes of coal daily since April 15, he said.

Since local residents have forcefully halted operations at other mines in the Talcher Coalfields, the company may not be able to supply adequate coal to the power companies that it feeds, he said.

MCL, with its headquarters in Burla town of Sambalpur district about 340 km from here, supplies coal to several power companies in southern India and Odisha, including the state power utility NTPC, Talcher Thermal Power Station and aluminium maker Nalco.

The company which produced over 121 million tonnes of coal during the last financial year, posting an increase of 11 million tonnes over previous years, is targeting a mammoth 150 million tonnes production during the current financial year, he said.

The Talcher Coalfields which produce about 2.4 lakh tonnes coal daily had produced 71 million tonnes coal during last financial year, he said.