Protests in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh against the proposed expansion of Coal India’s mine could threaten approval for the plans, according to reports.
The company is currently holding talks with residents opposed to the expansion of the Gevra mining site, which, if approved, would create one of the biggest coal operations in the world. Proposals would see production capacity at the site increased to 70 million tonnes per year, an output that would see the mine become the world’s single largest source of coal.
Residents in the area have raised concerns over air pollution caused by the mine, as well as the impacts on groundwater levels and land loss, according to Deepak Sahu, the joint secretary for Korba, a district farmers’ union.
“The company has taken considerable measures to address the issue of pollution associated with the mining process,” and studies have shown there is no impact on groundwater levels in the Korba district, a spokesman at South Eastern Coalfields, the unit that operates the Gevra site, told reporters.
In the recent months, India has gone to and fro between plans to expand coal operations in the country, and plans to reduce coal capacity. The country has found itself caught between keeping up with both global decarbonisation efforts and catering to increased power demand domestically. Currently, coal power accounts for approximately 70% of the country’s total electricity generation.
At the beginning of April, India’s Central Electricity Authority blueprint for the country’s National Electricity Plan (NEP), which proposed an increase in coal capacity of between 17GW and 28GW until 2032. This was on top of 25GW of new capacity from coal plants currently under construction.
However, in the middle of May, the government announced plans to close approximately 30 coal mines in the next three years and use the land for creating forests and water bodies. Last week, the government announced that it will not consider new coal-fired power plant proposals for the next five years in a bid to increase renewable capacity.
The country previously set a target to produce 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2047. This would require it to almost double its current renewables output. Under the NEP, India plans to install 500GW of clean energy by 2030.