A coal mine in India.

Coal India faces setbacks acquiring land and environmental clearances.
Image: Shutterstock

Coal India was delayed this week in their plan to build twenty new coal mine projects due to difficulties acquiring land and environmental clearances. The coal minister made this announcement earlier this month.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is struggling to pull through on his campaign promise to light up every home. In India, it can be difficult to acquire land.

Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal told parliament that the projects, costing more than 200 million rupees ($3 million), “could not be started due to constraints of land acquisition and environmental clearance.”

This month alone, the Coal India unit Mahanadi Coalfields had to halt operations at three mines because of protests. With all the push for more and more energy, Coal India and its rival company Singareni Collieries, which together account for over 90 percent of India’s coal production, are planning to produce over 561.5 million tons just in this fiscal year.

Narndra Modi was elected to his role as Prime Minister in May this year, having served as the chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years prior to the recent election. While Modi made significant changes in Gujarat, including promoting the development of 900 megawatts of solar generating capacity, he is finding it far more difficult to do something similar at a national level.

The other issue Coal India is running into is a lack of enough mechanical shovels, dumpers and explosives to build these coalmines. Although India is the third-largest coal importer, they could be number one but output has been stalled for years.

“India needs more power – a lot more, and fast, otherwise its recovery and hopes of a Modi-boom will be scuppered,” said HSBC economist Frederic Neumann.

These difficulties, combined with the incredibly negative environmental impacts of coal mines, make it even more clear that India’s ideal energy future is with solar power. India’s dense population in conjunction with high solar insolation make it the ideal location for capturing the power of the sun and putting it to good use.

Already, several large projects are proposed, and about 14,000 square miles of area in the Thar Desert has been reserved for new solar projects. If projects such as these are pursued, India could easily become a leading provider of energy in the world—without ever having to rely on a coal mine again.