There are extensive coal deposits in the four districts of Khammam, Karimnagar, Adilabad, and Warangal. These mines are operated by the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL). This company was initially set up by a private British Mining company in 1886, which was purchased by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1920. After independence, the government of India looks over this company. Today SCCL is jointly owned by the government of India and state government of Telangana. SCCL is currently operating 15 open cast and 35 underground mines in 4 districts of Andhra Pradesh and employs around 65,000 people (2012).
In Singareni coal mines coal is found as thick layers under the ground. If one dug from the ground level, first there will be some soil, after which there will be rocks and water. If we go further deep for about 200 or 300 feet we will reach the coal layer. In one area there can be several layers of coal separated by the rock or loose soil.
Blasting the coal:
Every day the supervisors inspect the coal seam and give instructions for that day’s mining where the mining is to be done, and what safety measures had to be taken. Different groups of people are assigned different tasks. One group was drilling holes with the pneumatic air compressor to plant the explosive rods. Resin packets were inserted to keep them in place. These explosives will be set off (detonated) by an electrical device. Strong rock like coal is broken in this manner so that it can be cut and transported. This process is called ‘blasting’.It is a hazardous process as sometimes, the blast can bring down the entire mine face sometimes, the blast can bring down the entire mine face sometimes, the blast can bring down the entire mine face causing the death of the miners. It has to be therefore done with great care and calculation.
Another group of miners was arranging wooden and iron supports to support the roof so that it may not fall down on the heads of the miners. One group was ready with flexible movable motor known as the drilling machine. This would be used to cut the coal after the blast. Now the blasting hole is ready.
When the entire preparation for blasting was complete. everyone withdrew to safe places. Then a Warning whistle was blown and then the detonator was set off Suddenly, the whole mine resounded with the boom of an explosion. The walls and the ground shook and it seemed as if an earthquake had hit the spot. There were smoke and dust everywhere. Slowly the dust settled. Two or three miners entered the dust cloud coughing. They walked over the coal that had fallen in the explosion using their rods to inspect the places from where the coal has fallen. At one spot the roof was weak so, it was supported with wooden beams and posts.
In this mine, coal is transported through conveyor belts. Earlier miners had to physically load the coal onto small wagons which carried the coal. Now dumper machines load the coal onto the conveyor belts which carry the coal to the ground level. Then the coal is graded and loaded onto trucks and railways wagons. Singareni mainly supplies coal to thermal power plants of the government. Remaining charges. It establishes schools and hospitals.
Singareni Collieries provides quarters with roads, drinking water, utilization water. It gives electricity at nominal charges. It establishes schools and hospitals.
Safety and Health Checkups:-
Director General of mines safety monitors safety aspects and periodical medical examination. The workers underground are not only exposed to accidents but constantly inhale coal dust which causes the dreaded ‘Black lung disease’, a form of TB. There are detailed guidelines for medical check-up of the miners and their treatment. Employees below 45 years will have thorough routine checkups every 5 years Employees above 45 years will have thorough routine checkups every 3 years. Miners with black lung disease are usually transferred to a different department over the ground.
New trends in Mining industry and miners:-
Recently there has been a great increase in demand for coal, especially for thermal power plants. However, our mines are not able to cater to this demand due to low productivity. Hence the SCCL is devising plans for increasing production by shifting to open cast mining. It has therefore set up about 15 open-cast mines and introduced fully automatic machines through private contractors. These will be producing much more coal but employ very few people. It is also said that the coal reserves of these open cast mining areas will be exhausted in 10 to 15 years after which there can be no mining in this area.