Nominated for the Public Eye People’s Award 2013
by Urgewald, www.urgewald.org
The state-owned coal Moloch: with 400 million tons per year, Coal India is the world’s largest coal producer, operates 90% percent of all coal mines in India and wants to continue building coal-fired power plants that would make India the world’s third largest CO2-emittor. The coal mines destroy the habitats of many large mammals and rob tribal peoples of their livelihood and homelands, forcing them into a life of bitter poverty. The dismal record with 205 workers dead and 699 seriously wounded in 2010 alone, suggests that working conditions at Coal India are indeed disastrous. At least 239 coal mines belonging to Coal India operate without environmental permit. Corruption and nepotism are business as usual at this company which, being state owned, would be expected to behave more responsibly than a privately owned corporation. Considering the company’s business practices, the slogans on its logo—„nurturing nature“ and „enabling life“—sound pretty hollow.
- Head office: Calcutta, India
- Industry: Mining
- Revenue / net income: 11,36 billion $ / 2,69 billion $
- Owned by: India 90%, traded shares 10%
- Employees: some 350’000
- CEO: S. Narsing Rao
- Website: www.coalindia.in
Irresponsible Corporate Behavior
Coal India also operates coal mines in the Jharia Region, originally a dense forest belt inhabited by various ethnic minorities. Today Jharia is the leading coal mining region in India with 23 deep mines and nine surface mines. Coal India's unexplained role in the Indian coal scandal („Coalgate“) and clues hinting at sales of coal to preferred customers at far below market prices, among other things, underline the prevalence of corruption and nepotism at Coal India. Working conditions, safety precautions, and environmental standards are often disastrous.
Inside the mines, spontaneous and uncontrolled subterranean coal fires that release poisonous gases are fairly frequent. More than 400'000 people in Jharia live in constant fear of the ground caving in as a result of subterranean fires. Whole villages and roads have been moved to save them from the approaching fires. The rising ground temperatures and the toxic substances in ground water and soil have turned the once densely populated coal region into one vast wasteland. The people who live above the underground fires in Jharia breathe poisonous gases every day. With agriculture now impossible, many villagers only survive by gathering stray bits of coal from the ground for a puny income.
Since Coal India and its seven subsidiaries operate almost 90% of all coal mines in India the company’s workers and the people of Jharia are not the only ones that suffer. Coal mining in forested regions damages not only nature and the climate, but also robs the tribal peoples of central India of their livelihood. Hundreds of thousands of tribal people have been displaced to make room for the mines of Coal India. These people now live in bitter poverty. Many of them have been forcibly moved as many as five times in the last 25 years. And even though they paid a bitter price for the coal boom, they have to make do without electricity to this day.
The expansion of surface mining by Central Coalfields Limited, a subsidiary of Coal India, not only drives indigenous people from their land and destroys their agriculture in one of the country’s most fertile rice and vegetable producing regions, but also makes living anywhere near the mines practically impossible by polluting the rivers and setting off explosions that cause the walls of houses to crack.
Deforestation and the large scale fragmenting of agriculture make surface mining in India also one of the biggest threats to the survival of the Indian tiger. In central India, where Coal India’s largest mines are located, mines are now threatening some of the most important protected tiger habitats such as theTadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. The planned expansion of the mines is an acute threat to the last remaining tiger populations.
But destruction and displacement go on regardless. Coal India intends to exploit the remaining Indian coal reserves in the forest of central India. If these plans are implemented, more than a million hectares of forest will be destroyed—with dire consequences not only for biodiversity but for the climate as well.
Demands to the Company
We urge Coal India not to build any new coal-fired power plants and new mines and instead switch to clean energy and leave coal mining behind. Working conditions, safety precautions and environmental standards must be radically improved.
«Coal India operating 239 mines without environment clearance» – The Economic Times
«Five things about India's coal scandal» – BBC
«CAG, CBI should investigate corruption in Coal India FSAs» – Business Standard
«How Coal-Mining is trashing Tiger-Land» – Greenpeace India Report