Industrial Metals

Less than two weeks after unions representing workers at Coal India called off an earlier strike, workers are gearing up for another strike aimed at opposing opening India up to commercial coal mining.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to bring big changes to the coal industry in India, but he’s receiving plenty of pushback from unionized workers at Coal India (NSE:COALINDIA). They are gearing up for a strike aimed at opposing opening India up to commercial coal mining, according to the Economic Times.

The issue dates back to October, when an executive order implying that the country plans to break Coal India’s 42-year monopoly and let in commercial miners appeared on the Indian Ministry of Coal’s website. Though the country holds the fifth-largest coal reserves in the world, it’s still the world’s third-largest importer, and has been experiencing critical coal shortages in some areas as of late — clearly Coal India hasn’t been keeping up with domestic demand.

Still, union leaders are adamant that commercial mining isn’t the way to go. According to the Times, they have requested to meet with the coal industry before a Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance is placed in front of parliament — the ordinance was cleared for introduction to parliament on Tuesday, and includes a provision that would enable commercial mining. If the meeting isn’t scheduled within the next few days, “we will decide on our next course of action which could involve indefinite strikes,” S.Q. Zama, secretary general of the Indian Mineworker’s Federation, told the Times.

Zama argued that the move would mean a “drastic fall” in government revenues, stating, “[a]t this moment, our main agenda is to stop privatization of commercial coal mining. We will stop it any cost.”

Ongoing opposition

Last month, union leaders spoke out against government plans to sell a 10-percent stake in Coal India. According to a Reuters article from November 23, the government was running behind schedule in terms of selling assets to meet its annual divestment target. Plans for a strike were cancelled when union leaders met with a senior coal ministry official, but the leaders are still waiting to meet with the power and coal minister.

At that time, Zama told Reuters that the competition commercial mining would bring could risk the jobs of 370,000 Coal India workers.

Certainly, with India being one of the world’s major coal consumers, coal investors will be watching closely to see whether the country indeed opens its doors to private coal miners.


Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article. 

Related reading: 

Why Commercial Coal Mining Won’t Solve India’s Energy Problems


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