Technology is the key enabler for sustainable mining, Says Uma Shankar, Sr VP, Adani Enterprises

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Uma Shankar, Senior Vice President, Adani Enterprises Ltd, India Coal Mining

By Rusen Kumar

GURGAON: Uma Shankar is the Senior Vice President at Adani Enterprises Ltd, India Coal Mining. He is a renowned mining engineer having experience of about 33 years in coal mining. Uma Shankar talks to India CSR Network about his views on Indian mining sector and mining activities and green plans and CSR of Chhattisgarh coal mining project at Ambaikapur area. He says, “Technology is going to be a key enabler for sustainable mining way forward and is at the heart of our Chhattisgarh project.” According to him the biggest challenge that coal mining industry in India faces is that logistics. He also said that the focus is directed towards environment conservation and building social infrastructure so that prosperity and happiness reaches the bottom of the pyramid. Edited excerpts:

Adani is the largest coal supplier in India and amongst the top 3 coal suppliers in the world. According to you what key role is Mining Sector playing in the economic growth of the country?

Considering that we are an integrated infrastructure conglomerate, the mining business brings natural synergies to our group’s business model. We entered coal mining to complete the energy value chain and pioneered the Mine Developer and Operator (MDO) concept in India’s mining industry.

As far as the role of Coal mining sector in the economic growth is concerned, coal production accounts for about 4.4% weight in country’s Index of Industrial Production (‘IIP’). Furthermore, it is a key input for electricity, steel and cement industry which in turn accounts for 19.4% weight in country’s IIP and therefore, coal mining sector contributes quite significantly to the economic growth in the country. It generates employment for more than a million people and directly plays a crucial role for Make in India and Skill India mission of the Government of India. Another important aspect is that the development of today’s civilization is also largely measured by per capita energy consumption and coal in India still accounts for more than 60% share in India’s energy mix.

According to you what are the key challenges facing mining industry in India and Global level?

Coal Industry in general is going through a phase which has not been seen before both at the global level and national level. There is increasing thrust towards renewable sources of energy and towards clean coal technologies in view of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of COP 21 and Paris Agreement. While the tariffs for solar power are falling at a very fast pace, I personally believe that coal and other renewable sources are going to play a complementary role for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the biggest challenge that coal mining industry in India faces is with respect to logistics. Around 70 to 80 % of the coal comes from three states viz. Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh whereas the power plants are spread across the length & breadth of the country. Coal still accounts for 60% of the energy mix in India and therefore, the mission to achieve 24X7 electricity for all becomes heavily dependent on the faster evacuation of coal. The Government has put massive thrust on railways infrastructure in the last few years and the gap to be filled is humongous.

Another important aspect is that India does not have high quality coal. It has high ash content and therefore, requires washing of coal which adds on to the cost of coal mining. On the demand side, the coal mining industry faces lackluster demand from consumers of coal. The demand for coal primarily from power sector has not picked up as much as the industry would hope to see which in turn also affects core manufacturing sector.

Through some lights on your Chhattisgarh operation. What are major green initiative of Chhattisgarh Mining Business? Do you have environment development department and what are the environment protection projects? Do you have provision of green belt development?

It was the year 2009 when Adani Group had won the MDO contract for development of Parsa East and Kanta Basen (PEKB) coal block allotted to RVUNL. Located in central part of Hasdeo-Arand coal field of Surguja district in Chhattisgarh, the coal block was poised to be one of most challenging project to develop as it was spread over the area of around 2700 Ha with forest in more than 70% of its land. The project since the time it has been approved has showcased as to how its CSR and environment initiatives are contributing to the social and economic development in the area in which it operates.

We have a well-organized environment and sustainability department with more 30 professionals having expertise in this area of operation. Our focus is directed towards environment conservation and building social infrastructure so that prosperity and happiness reaches the bottom of the pyramid and touches the lives of the citizens across the nearby areas and all our efforts are oriented towards staying true to name of being a Responsible Green Miner. Our numerous initiatives for environmental protection are directed towards green belt development.

We have deployed state of art technology of tree transplantation. More than 5600 trees with girth size of less than 60 cm have been relocated with survival rate of more than 90% in the last 3 to 4 years and we plant 29 trees for every tree falling. An in-house nursery has been established which has germinated more than 200,000 saplings in a short period since the project became operationalized.

Further, more than 140,000 plants of native species have been planted over 50 Ha. of land including reclaimed land, safety zone of the project area and nearby villages with survival rate of more than 80%. Consequently, a very thick greenbelt of local plant species has been developed at project areas as well as near-by villages. We have already reclaimed and restored 53.4 Ha. of mined land since the 2nd year of operation – which has been well recognized by local community for the agility with which things have been executed.

According to you what are the role of eco-friendly technology in sustainable mining, especially with the reference of Chhattisgarh operation.

Technology is going to be a key enabler for sustainable mining way forward and is at the heart of our Chhattisgarh project. My personal sense is that the next wave of productivity and efficiency in coal mining industry is going to be largely influenced by adoption of latest technology in India in line with Digital India mission of the Government. We are already using UAVs & GIS for land reclamation & monitoring and for safety & surveillance aspects. Also, the prospect of using continuous mining technology is being evaluated in our project which would ensure reduced usage of fuel.

Furthermore, conventional system of open cast mining involves drilling, blasting, trucking and crushing which may have an adverse impact on environment. However, we have deployed eco-friendly surface miner in our operations which avoids blasting for coal extraction.

 Going water level down is major issue in Chhattisgarh due to heavy industrialization and mining operation? Do you have water conservation project at mining areas?

Water level in Chhattisgarh is largely influenced by the amount of rainfall it gets along with industrialization. We as a responsible corporate in our endeavor to ensure complete re-storage of entire eco-system have very robust water conservation plans. We perform monthly monitoring of water levels and water quality in the surrounding villages and project area. The ground water balance in the post mining period has actually increased by 110% and we are harvesting total rainfall to the tune of 4.15 lakh m3. The water from sump is used for equipment washing in the service center, dust suppression in the crusher, watering in green belt and afforestation areas etc.

You would be glad to know that there is zero discharge to outside water bodies as a result of our project and there is no wastewater generation in entire mining activity.

 Do you have community development program around mining area? Do you have annual CSR spending commitment to the people of Chhattisgarh where you have operation?

The Corporate Social Responsibility has been textured in group’s DNA & value systems and the group has been silently working on it for over so many years. This is continuing in the Mining business too. We are committed to develop model villages so that there would total transformation of the villages in proximity areas to our mines. Making of a model village entails ensuring self-reliance in all aspects viz., education, health care and family welfare, infrastructure, working towards sustainable livelihood patterns, entrepreneurship etc.

We are confident to proclaim that PEKB is on its way to become Model Mine of the country not only on account of its operating efficiency but also on account of its engagement with the community, its CSR and environment related activities. The overall quality of life has improved and that has been accepted and acknowledged by the panchayat leaders of all the peripheral villages (Salhi, Parsa, Basen, Fatehpur, Shivnagar etc.). The Company has created roads, improved street lighting, installed hand-pumps, built sanitary places etc., thus contributing to overall well-being.

What are major areas of work under CSR projects?

As I highlighted, we are working on making of a model village Mobile Medical services which entails various aspects with the objective to provide end to end solutions for the problems of the peripheral villages.

For instance – the unique concept of health care solution named as provides medical services to more than 1,500 village patients at their door step and under another project named as Sanjiwani – W, we spread awareness particularly among rural women about various health issues. We are deeply committed to women empowerment in the region and by promoting the self-help groups are creating a sense of entrepreneurship and independence so that they can live with pride and dignity. The women in these self-help groups are imparted training on stitching and tailoring under the project Unnayan and many of these women have already started their small enterprise of tailoring & stitching which is an example of company’s focus on creating a culture of self-reliant villagers. Some of them have also been placed in factories in Chennai.

Furthermore, farmers club has been formed wherein farmers from various nearby villages are being professionally trained about farming with the objective to increase farm productivity and encourage agriculture-based employment. One of our major projects of setting up Vocational Training Centre (VTC) is underway at Salhi village and would be completed in few months. It has been set up with the objective to upgrade skills of the local community and therefore, make them more employable in the real world.

We have also established a football academy in Ambikapur which scouts for children passionate in the sport and trains them professionally for state level and national level tournaments. In no time, a young talent from the academy made his debut and represented the country in the DONA Cup held in Denmark last year.

We have set up a school named Adani Vidya Mandir wherein more than 400 children have been enrolled in a short span of time. We are working on drastically reducing the existing drop out-rate in the schools in nearby villages by engaging children in their overall personally development. All these initiatives have been taken for a project which is quite young at this point in time and this is just the beginning of our initiatives.

Our readers desire to know about your R&R plan in Chhattisgarh mining project. How many people are directly and indirectly affected by your operations?

The R&R plan that we are implementing is not because of regulatory requirements but more so because we want to bring in a more equitable society. We are focused on transcending the conventional barriers of business and we are reaching out to the marginalized as a matter of duty.

In our current projects, around 481 families have been affected during its entire life span. Out of this, 42% families would be affected only after 10 to 15 years. There are around 25% project affected families at the moment with either home ownership or both land & home ownership and we have already rehabilitated 75% of those with one employment to each family along with monetary rehabilitation package. Around 33% families with land ownership have been paid the entire compensation for their land. As a part of our R&R plan, we are developing rehabilitation village with all the amenities including electricity supply, roads with street lights, water supply, etc.

 How you ensure that community rights must protected at mining operation areas?

We have a strong belief that buy in from the local communities is critical for any project and trust is key factor in community engagement and this is what we have worked on. All the projects are planned in consultation with the community by engaging them and gauging their basic needs. Based on consensus and in discussion with the local village people, requirements are prioritized and thereafter, a project is born. The projects are based on plans for next 25 to 30 years and not for short term. Village meetings are held periodically to seek feedback on the benefits of our community programs and the areas where these need to be beefed up.

Profile of Uma Shankar: Uma Shankar is the Senior Vice President, Adani Enterprises Ltd, India Coal Mining. He Graduated in mining engineering from BIT Sindri (Dhanbad) in 1983, First Class with Distinction and secured First Class Mine Manager’s Certificate of Competency (Coal) in 1987 having experience of about 33 years in subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd. from 1983 to 2012 in capacity of mine incharge/manager of mine to Regional Director of Central Mine Planning & Design Institute.

He started mining career from deepest underground coal mine of Asia to advanced longwall mine with self- advancing powered support and DERD shearer. His experience is spread over all aspect of coal mining relating to development of coal blocks, drilling and exploration, geological reports, potential mining options, mine planning and construction and commissioning of mine  infrastructure including CHP/CPP & operation of mechanised opencast mine with shovel dumper combination in various statutory positions. He joined Adani Enterprises Ltd. in November 2012 as  Head of Project Management & Control.

(Rusen Kumar is the editor at India CSR Network. He can be reached at editor@indiacsr.in)

Disclaimer: The thoughts captured in the interview is solely that of the interviewee. The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR and its Editor.

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