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Coal is one of the most essential resources of a country. It is widely used for power generation and as a raw material in the industries. India ranks third in coal production. However, the country has to import coal in order to meet the rising demand for coal. In India, coal mining is conducted using two methods: underground and opencast methods. The underground method is suitable for extraction of deeper coal seams, whereas opencast method is suitable for shallow coal seams. However, due to less production cost, mechanisation, and less wastage, opencast method dominates in India (93.26% of the total production in the financial year 2016-17). Underground coal production in India shows a declining trend, and several underground mines are closed every year. However, 60% of the total coal production in the world is from underground mines, whereas in India it constitutes only 6.74% in the financial year 2016-17. Thus, underground coal production in India is declining. Due to the large scale extraction of near-surface coal resources by opencast mining, near-surface coal resources will be depleted in future.
Moreover, opencast mining has several environmental impacts, which is ignored keeping in view the colossal coal demand of the country. Thus, coal production in India is facing a crisis concerning the production method, environmental impacts and future demand for coal. With this background, this paper has been prepared on the basis of data collected from reports, research papers, and articles. Here, we make an attempt to compare both the mining methods with respect to advantages, disadvantages, environmental impact and feasibility. We also discuss the current and future trends of coal production using both the mining methods. Measures to sustain coal production in India are discussed in the conclusion part.
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