ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES OF COAL MINING
Coal is the most abundant fuel resource in India. It is the prime source of energy and perhaps the largest contributor to the industrial growth of the country. It is a crucial and enduring element in a modern, balanced energy portfolio, providing a bridge to the future as an important low cost and secure energy solution to sustainability challenges. Some important facts about coal industry in India are as follows:
•India is the third largest producer of coal in the world
•Coal is one of the primary sources of energy
•India has some of the largest reserves of coal in the world •Indian coal has high ash content (15-45%)and low calorific value •With the present rate of around 0.8Mt average daily coal extraction in the country, the reserves are likely to last over a 100 years
•The energy derived from coal in India is about twice that of energy derived from oil, as against the world, where energy derived from coal is about 30% lower than energy derived from oil
•Coal India Limited (CIL) is the largest company in the world in terms of coal production Coal continues to be the major source of primary commercial energy worldwide. Considering the limited reserve potentiality of petroleum and natural gas, eco-conservation restriction on hydel projects and geo-political perception of nuclear power, coal will continue to occupy the centre stage of India’s energy scenario. Share of coal in world’s energy consumption is 27%. The importance of coal in India can be gauged by the fact that it supports about 54.5% of the commercial energy in the country. The coal production in India has risen from 73 Mt in 1972 to about 382 Mt in 2004-05. Coal demand as projected for the year 2006-07 is 448 Mt, for 2011-12 is 620 Mt and is projected to 1061 Mt by the end of 2024-25.
The mining operations like drilling, blasting, extraction, transportation, crushing and other associated activities are carried out in underground and opencast mines. Mining operations damage the environment and ecology to an unacceptable degree, unless carefully planned and controlled. There is a need for balance between mining and environmental requirements. The various impacts of mining on environment and their mitigation measures are as follows:
(I) Impact of Mining on Air Quality
Air pollution in mines is mainly due to the fugitive emissions of particulate matter and gases including methane, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monooxide. Most of the mining operations produce dust. The major operations producing dust are drilling, blasting, hauling, loading, transporting and crushing. Basically, dust sources in mines can be categorized as primary sources that generate the dust and secondary sources, which disperse the dust and carry it from place to place called as fugitive dust.
Opencast mining is more severe an air pollution problem in comparison to underground mining. High levels of suspended particulate matter increase respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma cases while gaseous emissions contribute towards global warming besides causing health hazards to the exposed population. The uncontrolled dust not only creates serious health hazard but also affects the productivity through poor visibility, breakdown of equipment, increased maintenance cost and ultimately deteriorates the ambient air quality in and around the mining site. The dust can also pollute nearby surface waters and stunt crop growth by shading and clogging the pores of the plants. Besides polluting the environment, the generation of dust means the loss of fines, which act as road surface binders.
Problem with greenhouse gases, acid rain and ground level ozone The key environmental challenges facing the coal industry are related to both coal mining and the use of coal – greenhouse gases, acid rain and ground level ozone, issues which can be local, regional...
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