Coal India to invest $1.73bn in solar power projects
Coal India Ltd, the world’s largest coal miner, could venture into solar wafer manufacturing and wants to “aggressively” participate in the country’s solar energy auctions, its chairman told Reuters.
Pramod Agarwal said its joint venture with state-run NLC India Ltd plans to invest around 125 billion rupees ($1.73bn) in solar power projects with a capacity of 3,000 megawatts, of which Coal India will invest some 60 billion rupees by March 2024.
At the same time, it plans to keep closing small mines and stay away from opening those that would entail mass hiring, Agarwal said. The group closed 82 mines in the three years to March 2020, resulting in cuts to its workforce of 18,600 employees.
“Coal as you know, we’re going to lose business in the next two, three decades. Solar will take over (from) coal slowly as a major energy provider in the coming years,” Agarwal said in an interview.
“We are just exploring the possibilities where we can invest in solar wafer production, nobody is (currently) there in the country,” he said.
India, which makes solar cells and modules but not wafers, is planning to levy customs duties on some solar equipment from April 2022 as it looks to expand local manufacturing capacity.
Agarwal said the company’s steadily falling headcount would lead to a major reduction in costs. “The net reduction of employees is to the tune of 13,000 to 14,000 per annum,” he said.
State-run Coal India will face increased costs due to periodical wage revisions for non-executive employees, effective from July 1, 2021.
“But manpower reduction will have a stabilising effect, so the wage bill effect may be flat,” Agarwal said.
Ericsson joins EU’s NEXGEN SIMS sustainable mining project
Ericsson has joined a three-year initiative to develop autonomous, carbon-neutral mining processes supported by 5G connectivity. Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, the $16mn Next-Generation Carbon-Neutral Pilots for Smart Intelligent Mining Systems (NEXGEN SIMS) project is being coordinated by Swedish mining and infrastructure equipment manufacturer, Epiroc, in cooperation with a range of industry-diverse partners, including: Ericsson, K+S, Boliden, Agnico Eagle Finland, KGHM Polska and Luleå University of Technology.
Comprising mining companies, equipment manufacturers, tech companies and universities, NEXGEN SIMS was launched on May 1. The project will pursue collaborative partnerships across new technologies, methods and processes to increase the efficiency and sustainability of mining operations globally.
Ericsson Dedicated Networks solutions will feature prominently in the consortium. The solutions provide optimal on-site connectivity and supporting positioning for electric mining equipment, autonomous material handling, cross-machine fleet control and more.
NEXGEN SIMS builds on the successful SIMS project, which ran between 2017 and 2020 and played an important role in improving sustainable mining operations. The latest iteration of the project will cover advances in smart mining and mineworker-of-the-future use cases, develop autonomous mine inspection technology to enhance personnel safety and boost productivity, cost-efficiency and sustainability.
Thomas Norén, Head of Dedicated Networks, Ericsson, commented: “Our Ericsson Dedicated Networks solutions bring reliable connectivity and safety to the mines. This in turn enables the implementation of new use-cases that rely on it and that are not possible to realize with legacy mine networks today.”
He added: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for global greenhouse gas emissions to be halved by 2030, reaching net-zero before 2050. This goes across all sectors. Ericsson welcomes the opportunity to support dedicated projects to develop carbon free mining processes to directly reduce operational emissions in the mining sector, while creating a safer and more autonomous mining process.”
The full list of project partners is: Ericsson, Boliden, Agnico Eagle Finland, KGHM Polska, K+S and OZ Minerals, Mobilaris MCE, AFRY and KGHM Cuprum; LTU Business, Luleå University of Technology and RWTH Aachen University.