CIL prepares to import coal, sell local mines

Coal India Ltd is strong on acquiring mines abroad, even as it plans to import four million tonnes of coal to meet the requirements of its fellow-public sector undertaking National Thermal Power Corp Ltd.

"CIL is going to import 4 million tonnes of thermal coal for NTPC this fiscal. A tender will be floated in November and we expect the coal supply in January next year," Coal India director (technical) N C Jha told reporters at a coal summit in New Delhi.

He said the total coal import requirement of the power sector in this fiscal is 22 million tonnes. The country's total coal import in this fiscal is going to be around 60 mt compared to 57 mt in the last fiscal, Jha added.

According to him, of the 435 million tonnes of coal production expected by CIL - a state-run monopoly distributor of coal - 313 million tonnes will be for the power sector. Last financial year, CIL produced 403.7 million tonnes of coal, Jha added.

Chairman Partha S Bhattacharyya said ten firms, including steel major ArcelorMittal, are interested in developing abandoned coal mines of CIL. Coal India has 18 such mines in eastern India, with proven reserves of 1.6 billion tonnes of superior grade coal.

"We hope to sign a contract for one or two of these blocks this (fiscal) year so that production can come from 2013/14," told reporters at a conference.

At the same time, CIL expects to complete a mine acquisition this fiscal. It has already hired the Royal Bank of Canada to carry out a due diligence on a deposit in Australia.

The state-owned company is seeking mines in the US, Australia, South Africa. As many as 52 companies want to be its partners, Bhattacharyya said. He and Sriprakash Jaiswal, his minister of state, visited Australia in September to assess potential acquisition targets.