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History of Coal Mining and Exploration in India
Coal, “the Black Diamond” was known to man from ancient times. 3000 years ago the Chinese first used coal as a fuel. What gave coal a worldwide recognition, however, were the use of coke for smelting iron in around 1750, the introduction of watt’s steam navigation and the introduction of the gas lighting in 1807. An engineer named Murdock first utilised the gas generated from coal in 1792 for illuminating his house.
Angarpattra (charcoal stone), Barakar (Bada – khad of chief mine), Damodar (fire in the womd) and kalipahari (black hill) are some of the names of the places which are now important coal bearing regions. These names as well as the old slag heaps within the coal bearing areas indicate that coal was used in India from ancient time. But coal did not receive due recognition perhaps due to the availability of wood in abundance from the nearby forest and lack of growth of industries in ancient India. Coal cent to the outcrops of the coal seams. The first mention of coal mining dates back to 1774 when some shallow pits were dug in a small way in Sitaram – (West Bengal) in Ranigunj coalfield. This was a joint venture of Mr. Suetonious grant heatly, the then collector of chhotanagpur and palamau in Bihar and Mr. John Summer, after obtaining a lease from revenue council of Bengal. The firm, M/s summer and heatly delivered the first consignment of 92.9 tonnes of coal to transport the coal. But the coal was found unsuitable for use by the shipmasters. Another consignment of about 20 tonnes of coal was delivered to the military stores of the East India Company in 1777 for use in ordnance factory, but it was also rejected due to its inferior quality as compared to the English coal. The East India refused to buy any more coal and there being no other market at the time, the maiden effort of coal mining was abandoned and the firm was liquidated.
Mr. Jones who came from England to explore Bengal coalfields in 1814 pointed out that introduction of coal from Bengal into Calcutta would result in providing a better and more economical fuel in place of firewood, then in use, for burning limestone for preparation of slaked lime. With an advance of Rs. 40,000/- from the East India company he began to work a mine at Egara Village near Ranigunj, but this venture also failed. M/s. Alexander & company, the first regularly constituted mining company under European supervision and with European capital in Bengal, took over the lease of the property of Mr. Jones and works the mines until 1835 when M/s. Alexander & company.
Steam navigation which commenced in this country in 1823 gave another impetus to the development of the coal industry. The inland streamers were fed through the Damoder River. But since the river was navigable only during rainy session, transport of coal by this mode was uncertain and thereby caused interruption in regular of coal to the streamers.
Up to the middle of nineteenth century, the production of coal was not, however, significant. From 1815 to 1823, the annual output of coal remained static at about 404 tonnes which increased to 3700 tonnes by 1845.
The introduction of railway gave another impetus to the development of the coal industry. The coal exploration entrusted with geological survey of India in 1851. The rail line connecting in Bombay with Thana was established in 1854 and imported coal was used to run the locomotives. Indian coal was used by the east India railway for the first in 1855 when the section between Howrah and Ranigung (second venture of the railway in the country), a distance of 290 km. was opened the coal production during the year 1857 was 50,000 tonnes. The East Indian railway opened the Giridhi coalfield in 1871. During this period, equitable coal company came into existence. After 12 years, another large company, the Burrakar coal company, entered the market. While coal mining was largely done in the Ranigunj and Jharia areas, development on a small scale also took place in the Daltonganj area, rewa state, central provinces, Hyderabad, Assam and Baluchistan. In the Ranigunj field itself, nearly 50 collieries were operating by 1860.
With more numbers of collieries operating, the need for organised mines safety was felt. The first inspector of mines was felt. The first inspector of mines was appointed in geological survey of India in 1864. Subsequently, the department of mines was crated which looked into the mines safely. The first mine was enacted in 1901. Later in 1923 and again in 1952, the mines Act was re-enacted to include more statutes.
In 1900, the annual production reached 6.12 million tonnes out of which Ranigunj area accounted for 2.55 millions tonnes. In 1914, coal production rose to about 16.5 million tonnes when many new coalfields were discovered. However Jharia coalfield with an annual output of 9 million tonnes and Ranigunj coalfield with an annual output of 6 million tonnes continued to be the leading producers of coal. The industrial activity expended during the first world and the demand for coal exceeded is supply from the early part of 1915. With rise in demand, the price of coal rose. Average coal price rose from Rs. 3.80 per tonne in 1914 to 4.60 per tonne before the end of the war in 1918, the price begin controlled by the Government. At the same the demand for the cooking coal rose sharply owing to the increased production of the steel mills (Tata Iron & Steel Company Ltd. Was established in 1911) and to meet the extra demand for the coking coal a few collieries started working high grade coking coal seams.
The period 1920-26 saw the most serious decline in contrast with the war-time prosperity of the Industry. The coal output in 1920 fell by as much as 3 million tonnes as compared to the previous years. (1919: 20.70 millions tonnes; 1920: 17.96 millions tonnes). There was a rapid decline in the export trade and at the same time some internal markets we re African countries. In 1920, Indian export amounted to 1.22 million tonnes and imports 0.03 millions tonnes, but by 1921 and 1922 however, exports came down to 0.81 million tonnes while import increased to 1.14 million tonnes.
The 1927-30 era was a period of short-lived boom because of the revival of the industrial activity throughout the country and the coal mining industry once again recaptured its lost horizon. Low prices made coal a more attractive proposition as a mine source of industrial power. But soon the industry fell in group of worldwide economic recession of 1930. The coal production declined by nearly 2 million tonnes in 1931. Worse was to follow in 1933 when the coal output was below the 1918 figures. Some collieries had to close down for want of adequate demand and reasonable prices, but other mines in the struggle for survival tried hard to cope with the steady falling prices by increasing their output with slaughter mining tactics. The pit-head price of coal came down to Rs. 2.9 per tonne from Rs. 9.2 in 1923. The government, therefore, appointed a coal mining committee in 1936 under the chairmanship of Mr. L. B. Burrows to go into the serious economic difficulties experienced by the industry and to prevent the wastage of coal. It was also asked to study the security and safety aspects of those employed in the mines. The enquiry of the committee was limited to the coalfields in Bengal-Bihar and the central provinces.
The committee submitted it report in 1937. It found that though there had been contributory causes such as the general economic depression, the indifference of landlords and the inaction of the Government in the face of growing national emergency, the trade and industry was itself mainly responsible for its unsatisfactory condition. The committee also went into the collieries and suggested various remedial measures. On the question on conservation of coal, the committee felt that legal measures for conservation should b applied to all good quality coals and it should be introduced as a matter of public policy in the interest of the community, as a whole. The committee also favoured the application of the application of ‘stowing techniques’ to enable higher recovery of coal which, otherwise, would have been lost due to incomplete extrications resulting in fires in the mines, in the interest of the community, as a whole. The committee also favored the application of ‘stowing techniques’ to enable higher recovery of coal which, otherwise, would based have been lost due to incomplete extrications resulting in fires in the mines, inundations and explosions. Similarly the coal lost below the railway lines, roads, building, village sites, rivers etc. could be also extracted by sand-stowing, resulting in increased productivity and life of the collieries. In a supplementary note to the Burrows committees’ report, Dr. Nag and Dr. M. S. Krishnan