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India faces five day strike by coal miners

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World Coal,

Workers at Indian state-owned coal mining company, Coal India (CIL), have begun a five day strike in protest at plans to allow private companies to mine and sell coal. Currently, private companies are only allowed to mine coal for their own use.

The provisions allowing the possible opening up of the coal mining sector were included in the recent Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, which was passed in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel 214 of the 218 coal block licenses awarded to private companies for captive mining since 1993.

Five unions, representing 90% of CIL’s 350,000 workers, are backing the strike, which could disrupt 1.3 million t of CIL’s 1.6 million tpd output – putting further pressure on coal supplies at India’s power plants. Around 20% of power plants monitored by the Central Electricity Authority are currently running on coal stocks of less than four days, reported Reuters.

CIL has boosted coal shipments in the run up to the strike to try to mitigate its impact. But with stocks of coal already so critically short, power outages are likely.

Unions have refused to meet with India’s minister of coal, Piyush Goyal, to discuss the crisis, saying they were not consulted before the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill was passed. They have also raised the specter of further disruption with one union leader saying they could extend it “to an indefinite strike” if the government does not back down.

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