India Wants To Buy South African Coal Mines To Feed Its Resurgent Coal Industry

Written by Dana Sanchez

India doesn’t have enough reserves of coking coal to feed its expanding steel industry so it’s in talks with South Africa to buy coal mines there, Reuters reports in BusinessDayLive.

Money is no object for Coal India, said India’s Coal Secretary Anil Swarup.

Environmentalists are worried.

The Indian government-controlled coal mining company Coal India is the largest coal producer in the world, according to ArchCoal, second largest supplier of coal in the U.S.

With headquarters in Kolkata, Coal India contributes around 82 percent of Indian coal production. The company had $8 billion in cash and bank balances for the year ending March 31, BusinessDayLive reported.

India’s emissions growth in 2014 was greater than the U.S. in 2013. The U.S. consumes nearly four times as much energy as India, Rediff reports.

India is the world’s third-largest polluter. Burning more fossil fuel is an unpopular proposition amid international efforts to contain global warming, according to Reuters. Global investment banks are being pressured by environmental groups to avoid India’s plan to raise as much as $3.3 billion selling a 10 percent stake in Coal India.

But India wants to triple its steel capacity to 300-million tonnes by 2025, and doesn’t have enough reserves of coking or steelmaking coal, prompting it to look at assets abroad, Swarup said Monday at the Reuters Global Commodities Summit.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to connect millions of Indians to the grid who still use kerosene lamps.

India is in negotiations with South Africa for a joint venture in Limpopo province, officials said earlier, according to a report in BricsPost.

“We imported around 80- to 90-million tonnes of coking coal last (financial) year and if that is the amount that can come through a mine owned by Coal India, we would consider it,” Swarup said.

India is looking to more than double its coal output to 1.5-billion tonnes by 2020, with 500-million tonnes coming from the private sector. India is working out details to allow private companies to mine and sell coal, Swarup said.

The turnaround in India’s coal industry has been a highlight of Modi’s term since May 2014, and the prime minister wants output to grow further, Reuters reports.

“We are reasonably satisfied (with the coal resurgence), though there is still a long way to go,” Swarup said.

The environment is nonnegotiable, Swarup said. India plans to plant more trees than it cuts during coal mining operations. It plans to wash coal to improve its quality, push renewable energy and promote other “clean-coal” technologies, Reuters reports.

Coal India provides more than half of India’s power generation capacity. Coal powers most of South Africa’s electricity generation, TheBricsPost reports. South African government controlled utility Eskom supplies about 95 percent of the nation’s power, mainly from coal.

South African President Jacob Zuma plans to attend the upcoming four-day India-Africa Summit that begins Oct. 26 in New Delhi.