At least eight open cast mines of the Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited (MCL), a subsidiary of state-run Coal India, are facing closure in Orissa due to opposition by local residents, a company official said Wednesday.
The mines, located in Talcher in Angul district, some 180 km from here, are expanding but villagers are opposing the mining activities, MCL spokesman Dikken Mehra told IANS.
'Fear of closure of most of the mines is looming large,' he said.
'We are not able to shift the villagers because we are not getting rehabilitation sites,' Mehra said.
'The villagers, who had given up their land, have been employed by the company and compensation packages paid to them. But unavailability of land for their rehabilitation has become a major trouble in shifting them,' he added.
District Collector Swami Dodda Venkata said the state government was aware of the problems.
'We do not have enough government land in the nearby areas. We are trying to help them out with whatever we have,' he told IANS.
'Locating suitable government land for their rehabilitation is a challenge for us. We have suggested them to purchase private land,' he said.
But Mehra said the problems in several mines were acute and required urgent measures.
'The mines which are registering negative growth compared to last year in the Talcher coalfields are Bharatpur, Jagannath, Ananta, Bhubaneswari, Chendipada, Lingaraj, Hingula and Balaram,' he said.
However, problems in at least four mines were acute and required urgent measures.
The Bharatpur mine is a dedicated MCL mine for supply of coal to state-run National Aluminium Co Ltd (NALCO). Other mines supply coals to power plants in several states, including Orissa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Mehra said: 'A machine costing more than Rs.100 crore was employed at Bharatpur mine recently but it could not be put in operation because of the non-eviction of a house on the site.'
'We fear that if early action is not taken in this regard, the commitment made to NALCO and other power producers will not be fulfilled,' he added.
The MCL has produced 104.8 million tonnes of coal during 2009-2010 against India's 531 million tonnes output.
The coal production from the open cast mines at the Talcher coal fields was 10 million tonnes last fiscal (April 1 to June 11). This year it was only 8.14 million tones (from April 1 to June 11), another senior company official said.