Minister for power and coal Piyush Goyal today sounded optimistic about India ending coal imports in the next two to three years and doubling domestic production to one billion tonnes by 2019, from the current level of 565 million tonnes.
Speaking at a meeting of global investors, Goyal said this would not only make India self-sufficient in coal, but would also make possible for India to become a coal exporting nation by drawing up a clear road map to achieve the target.
India, the world's third-largest importer of coal, may be able to stop imports of power-generating thermal coal in the next three years as state-run Coal India ramps up output at its mines Goyal said.
Raising coal production is key to achieving Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream of round-the-clock power to all Indians by 2022.
Towards this the NDA government recently announced that coal mining would be opened up for private firms to compete with Coal India, which currently accounts for 80 per cent of the country's output.
"I'm very confident of achieving these targets and am very confident that India's current account deficit will not be burdened with the amount of money we lose for imports of coal," Goyal told a conference.
"Possibly in the next two or three years we should be able to stop imports of thermal coal."
Coal generates three-fifths of India's power, but around 60 of India's 103 power plants had coal stocks for less than a week's requirement as of 2 November.
India's coal imports rose to 168.4 million tonnes last fiscal, and the government estimated earlier this year that the domestic shortage would range between 185 and 265 million tonnes by 2016-17.
Any reduction in India's coal imports will seriously hit global coal markets grappling with oversupply as top consumer and importer China tries to shift towards cleaner fuels.