By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESWAR - Coal India Ltd has lost 13 million tonnes, or 2.1%, of its annual output this financial year, due to strikes at eastern Indian Talcher coalfields, one of India's biggest, a spokesman for the company's unit said on Wednesday.
Coal India produced 606.87 million tonnes of coal during the year ended March 2019, and aims to produce 660 million tonnes this year. But the highest monsoon rainfall in 25 years and frequent strikes have kept output 6% lower than last year during the first six months, with September production falling 23.5%.
"Owing to an unfavourable socio-political situation and frequent stoppages, Talcher coalfields alone has registered a loss of 13 million tonnes in coal production during the current financial year," Dikken Mehra, a spokesman for Coal India unit Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) said.
Production at the coalfields in Talcher, which were earlier this year rocked by strikes over mine safety and the death of a goat, was on Wednesday stopped by villagers demanding employment, Mehra said.
"With this closure of Jagannath open cast mines (OCP), Bhubaneswari OCP and Ananta OCP, production and supply of more than 110,000 tonnes (of) coal to the thermal power plants in a day is being affected," he said.
Frequent work stoppages at coal mines due to local disruptions reflect risks to investment in the sector, which India has been looking to open up to private investors and global miners.
The government has failed to privatise the industry, despite passing a liberalisation policy 16 months ago, because of bureaucratic indecision and resistance from unions.
Indian opposition parties also criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi for falling growth and slow job creation.
Mehra said MCL was processing 268 applications for employment, but had rejected 135 others as they were not eligible.
The 135 villagers were invited for a negotiation, but "none turned up and resorted (to) stoppage of work", resulting in a loss of 110 million rupees ($1.55 million) for the company, he said.
($1 = 70.9680 Indian rupees)
(Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan, editing by Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)