By Sudarshan Varadhan
NEW DELHI - India will allow Coal India to build 11 new coal mines, the government said, a move that could increase annual production of the world's largest coal miner by two-fifths.
The mines, in Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar, are expected to operate at full capacity by 2022, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters.
Coal India, which is 79 percent state-owned, had asked the government to grant it additional capacity.
The new mines are expected to increase Coal India's annual production, which was 554 million tonnes in the year to March 2017, by 225 million tonnes. The company aims to ramp up production to about one billion tonnes by 2022.
The move would help all of Coal India's seven units produce over 100 million tonnes per annum, and reduce the country's dependence on imported fuel, Goyal said.
India imported about 190 million tonnes of coal in the year ended March 2017.
Environmentalists worry that despite India's commitment to renewable energy, the country's rising use of coal at a time when many Western nations are rejecting the dirty fossil fuel will hamper the global fight against climate change.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Adrian Croft)