By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESHWAR, India (Reuters) - The coal mine in Jharkhand where 18 people died last month after a collapse has resumed partial production, the operator said on Friday, even as operations continued to recover five bodies still believed trapped in another part of the mining area.
The accident on Dec. 29 at the Lalmatia mine, one of India's largest,forced a complete halt in production of the 50,000 tonnes of coal mined daily.
The mine is run by a subsidiary of state giant Coal India, which has a patchy safety record, with 135 accidents reported in 2015.
The mine is now producing 15,000 tonnes of coal per day, with a plan to increase output gradually to 30,000 tonnes within two days, R.R. Amitabh, a senior official at Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) told Reuters.
"We have resumed partial production in another area of the mine two-three days ago after all safety precautions. Operations, however, remain suspended in the part where the accident had taken place," he said.
The company said in December that fog had slowed rescue operations as authorities tried to clear the collapsed mine waste.
The Lalmatia open cast mine has an annual capacity of 17 million tonnes and accounts for about half of ECL's coal production. Coal output from the mine this month could fall 30 percent, a senior company official said last week.
ECL last month accounted for about 9 percent of Coal India's total production of 50 million tonnes.
(Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Editing by Tommy Wilkes and Michael Perry)