By Samantha James

GOVERNMENT-run Coal India is gearing up for a technology overhaul to prevent theft as it prepares for an increase in output to 1 billion tonnes of coal by 2020.

The move would bring the largest coal company in the world in line with global mining practices implemented in countries such as the US and Australia.

Expected to cost around $52 million (3.5 billion rupees) initially, the upgrade would include GPS tracking of vehicles to check coal theft, as well as electronic fencing of mines, introduction of ICT compliant machinery and enterprise resource planning to collate data from various business units.

“This is Coal India’s biggest technological overhaul, and its impact would be in billions of dollars,” coal secretary Anil Swarup told Reuters.

“The whole shift towards supplying quality coal to customers further increases the use of technology to avoid pilferage.”

Coal India’s unit Mahanadi Coalfields had already implemented technology modernisation, installing CCTV cameras at shipment sites and linking all its trucks with satellites.

The vehicles were also fitted with radio frequency identification tags.

Mahanadi executive Deepak Srivastava said the measures had tightened control over errant truck drivers, but there was still scope to improve.

“As of now, we can only detect route violations, but there should be a system so an alert goes out if the GPS is removed or tampered with,” Mr Srivastava said.

“There should also be a way to ensure the weight of coal at the loading site and offloading site is the same.”