July 23, 2015 / 12:35 PM / 5 years ago

Coal imports could slide 3 percent in 2015/16 - government

Workers unload coal from a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India could import 3 percent less coal in the year to next April despite a jump in demand, the coal minister said on Thursday, as local output rises at a record pace in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for power to all.

The world’s third-largest coal importer wants to end its dependence on foreign supplies this decade, mainly for the variety used in power generation, and has set ambitious targets for state-run Coal India. It is also working on opening the nationalised sector to private companies.

If India manages to become self-sufficient in thermal coal, it would be a double blow for exporters Indonesia and Australia, already grappling with depressed demand from top buyer China.

India, however, is expected to keep consuming increasing amounts of coal as Modi tries to step up economic growth and provide continuous power, even to the third of India’s 1.25 billion people who still use oil lamps or other traditional means to light their homes.

Coal requirements will jump 10 percent to 910 million tonnes this fiscal year, Piyush Goyal told lawmakers in a written reply. Domestic supplies are estimated to be 700 million, 15 percent more than last year, and imports could drop to 210 million tonnes.

Coal India’s April-June output rose 12 percent to 121.3 million tonnes as it opened new mines and received environmental approvals to expand existing ones. The government wants to double the company’s output to 1 billion tonnes by 2019/20.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by David Goodman

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