India’s aluminium plants receive least coal rail rakes in six months

Railway rakes supplying coal to aluminium plants have dropped to the lowest since the peak of an energy crisis in September, forcing the industry to import more amid rising cost pressures.

The industry got an average of 18.4 coal-laden carriages a day in the first half of March, the lowest since the 17.8 rakes it received in September last year, according to data provided by Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi in a written reply to the Parliament. 

Coal is supplied to power plants in India through railways and roads, but buyers located far from mines prefer the trains as road transport is costlier.

With no relief in sight despite coal stocks running critically low and production disruptions looming across the Indian aluminium sector, the Aluminium Association of India (AAI) has approached the Ministry of Coal, urging the immediate resumption of adequate coal rakes for the highly power-intensive Aluminium industry.

In its representation to the Ministry, the AAI has lauded the combined efforts by the Ministry of Coal and Coal India Limited in reviving domestic coal production, which has helped ease the coal supply crisis for the Power Sector. The steps undertaken by the Ministry increased the overall daily rakes dispatched from 242 rakes/day in September 2021 to 289 rakes/day in December 2021. This has drastically strengthened the coal stocks of the Power Sector to around 10 days, a marked improvement from a mere 2-3 days in the months of September-October last year.

However, this has come at enormous cost to the Captive Power Plants (CPP)-based industry and the worst impacted is the Indian aluminium industry, which continues to see depleting coal stocks of only 3-4 days, abysmally low compared to the prescribed level of 15 days for the sector. Struggling to cope with this prolonged crisis since the second quarter of this fiscal year, the AAI has now sought the Ministry’s support to ensure adequate supplies to the CPPs by earmarking at least 25-30 coal rakes per day to ensure viable industry operations.

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