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Protests in India have slowed the expansion of coal mines

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Protests over land sold for mine expansions in one of India’s most productive coal regions are impeding efforts to boost output and avoid a repeat of last year’s energy crisis.

Residents in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, where Coal India Ltd. operates some of Asia’s largest coal mines, have accused the company of breaking employment agreements made during the sale process.

According to company officials who asked not to be identified, demonstrators have refused to vacate land earmarked for development or disrupted operations at existing mine sites in recent weeks.

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The protests come as India’s imports are limited by high seaborne coal prices, contributing to a drop in power plant inventories as the country enters its peak summer months. Coal India has already prioritised deliveries to power generators over other important customers such as aluminium smelters and cement plants.

Locals have been protesting for weeks in the Kusmunda coalfields, and officials say similar actions are also taking place in the Gevra and Dipka areas.

Coal India said in an email that it is reviewing the merits of the demonstrators’ demands, including those related to employment. According to the company, it is in talks with both the protesters and the local government, and hopes to reach an amicable resolution soon.

“We will fight these expansion plans to the death,” says the group “According to Deepak Sahu, a local protester whose family sold a portion of their land in Gevra and claims Coal India has broken its employment commitments, the company has reneged on its promises. “We will not stop until the company agrees to our demands.””

According to a letter seen by Bloomberg News, authorities called off a public hearing on a planned mine expansion last month citing law and order concerns, threatening to disrupt efforts to boost domestic coal capacity.

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