Towards sustainable development: planning surface coal mine closures in India

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, Volume 13, Issue 1, p.30-43 (2018)



mine closure, mine reclamation and restoration, Opencast coal mining, self-sustaining ecosystem, unified coal mine regulator


Coal is the major source of India's electricity today, accounting for 59 per cent of its electricity generation capacity and 75 per cent of the electrical energy generated. Given that 63 per cent of the power generation capacity added in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012–2017) was coal-based, coal is set to remain the most staple source of electricity for India in the foreseeable future. Of the coal produced in India, more than 90 per cent is dispatched from surface or opencast mines, with potentially harmful effects on the environment, due to loss of forests and habitats, disruption of biodiversity and of local communities, and associated damage to agriculture, water resources and local air quality. Acknowledging these adverse environmental impacts, the Government of India has mandated the restoration of mining areas post mine closure to create a ‘self-sustaining ecosystem’, while optimising the use of mined-out land for the benefit of local communities. Within this context, the article reviews India's surface coal mine closure policies, regulatory regimes and operating practices with reference to best practices for reclamation and restoration in selected major coal-producing countries. The article identifies the shortcomings in India's policies and suggests strategies and measures to remedy them