* Demand-supply gap may touch 200 mln T by 2017-min
* Coal firms slow in mechanisation
(Adds minister's quote, detail)
By Krittivas Mukherjee and David Lalmalsawma
NEW DELHI, Sept 27 India could import about 114
million tonnes of coal in 2011/12, up by over a third from the
previous year, mainly from Indonesia and South Africa to help
prevent power stations and factories in Asia's third-largest
economy from slowing down.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said on Tuesday India's
coal demand was seen at 696 million tonnes in 2011/12 against an
expected local output of 554 million tonnes. State-run Coal
India , the world's largest coal miner, has stocks of
about 28 million tonnes, reducing the overall shortfall.
"However, stock liquidation is subject to availability of
(rail wagons)... Measures proposed to step up production are
subject to different statutory approvals and availability of
land," Jaiswal told a coal conference in New Delhi.
India is home to 10 percent of the world's coal reserves,
trailing only the United States, Russia and China, but a
shortfall from local supplies has grown rapidly with an increase
in coal-fired power plants and steel makers.
Domestic output has been crimped by hurdles over
environmental clearances and land acquisition, as well as low
investment, forcing sharp downward revisions of output targets
that could drag on India's nine percent growth plans.
India's gargantuan appetite for coal has meant Coal India is
the country's second most valuable company with a record initial
public offer last year raising about $3.5 billion. Yet costly
imports seem the only way now to meet the country's coal demand.
India bought about 82 million tonnes of coal in 2010/11,
government data, which is often slow to compile, showed. The
Indian coal industry puts that figure at about 102 million
tonnes, including some 70 million tonnes of the thermal variety.
It was not clear how much of 2011/12 imports could consist
of the costlier coking coal.
"The gap in demand and supply from domestic sources would
exceed 200 million tonnes" by 2017, at the end of a five-year
plan period, Jaiswal said.
"We are aware that coal is the mainstay of India's energy
needs and our dependence on the same is likely to continue for
quite some time."
Earlier this year, Jaiswal said a concerted effort to remove
regulatory hurdles could help boost India's coal output by 7-8
percent in 2011/12, though the country would remain a major
Coal accounts for more than 60 percent of India's energy use
and, despite a push to use more greener forms of fuel, the
country will depend on it to reduce black-outs and halve its
peak-hour power deficit of nearly 14 percent.
(Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Miral Fahmy)