Coal Resources [NCERT Geography Notes for UPSC, SSC, Railways Exam]

Coal Resources [NCERT Geography Notes for UPSC, SSC, Railways Exam]
Posted on 18-03-2022

Coal Resources


  • Coal resource is a non-conventional energy source i.e. non-renewable resource.
  • Non-renewable resources are those resources whose reserves are not restored by natural processes.
  • Coal resources are exhausted by human activities and they take millions of years to be regenerated.
  • Coal is a solid organic material that is used as a fuel.
  • Coal is very important as a major source of energy.
  • The coal used for the production of electricity is called 'thermal coal' while the coal which is used for the production of coke required for steel making is called 'coking coal'.

Coal reserves and production areas in India

  • Coal resource is the main resource of energy in India. Coal produces 67% of the total commercial energy of the country. Coal is found in Gondwana of India and rocks of the third megakalpa phase. About 75% of the coal reserves are in the Damodar river-valley. The fifth note of the musical scale. Coal is obtained from Raniganj in Bengal and Jharia in Bihar, Giridih, and Bokaro in Chhattisgarh. Apart from this, coal is also available from the Satpura range of Madhya Pradesh and the plains of Chhattisgarh.
  • Most of the coal reserves are concentrated in the eastern and central parts of India, while thermal power plants are scattered throughout. This necessitates the transportation of coal over long distances.
  • Four types of coal resources are found in India: anthracite (the best quality coal found only in Jammu and Kashmir); bituminous (the second-best quality of coal); lignite (found in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Jammu, and Kashmir); Peat (this is the first stage of the conversion of wood into coal, which contains only 35 percent carbon).

Types of coal and their characteristics


  • The moisture content in this coal is high and more smoke rises from it.
  • The carbon content in it is less than 40% and hence it is considered to be the lowest and lowest grade coal.
  • It represents the first stage of coal formation.


  • Lignite is a better type of coal than peat. Peat converts to lignite coal over time due to increasing pressure and heat.
  • Lignite has a carbon content of 40% to 60%.
  • It is mainly found in Neyveli, Palan Lakhimpur-Assam, Jaintia Paharia-Meghalaya, Nagaland, Kerala, Jammu, and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The lignite reserves in India are estimated to be 36,000 metric tonnes.

Bituminous coal

  • When coal is buried deep in the ground, its moisture is lost. Bituminous is a dense solid and black in color.
  • Parts of the native vegetation from which this coal is made can be seen in it.
  • This coal has a carbon content of between 60% to 80% and is the most popular coal for commercial use.
  • This coal is named after the 'bituminous liquid' which is obtained by heating this coal.
  • Bituminous coal is used to make 'coke' i.e. coking coal, gas coal, and steam coal.
  • Coking coal is obtained by heating coal without oxygen due to which the steam burns and is mainly used in the iron and steel industry. Most of the bituminous coal is found in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh.

Anthracite coal

  • The highest grade is coal, which contains between 80% and 90% carbon. The amount of volatile matter in it is very less and the moisture content is negligible.
  • This coal has a blue, short flame. It is the most expensive type of coal.
  • Coal Distribution Areas Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh have major coal reserves.
  • A brief description of coal reserves in these states-
  • Jharkhand state accounts for 29% of the total coal reserves of the country and Jharkhand ranks first in the country in terms of coal reserves and production.
  • Most of the coal here dates back to the Gondwana period. The main centers are Bokaro, Daltonganj, Dhanbad, Jharia, Karanpur, and Ramgarh coalfields.
  • Orissa accounts for 24% of the country's total coal reserves, so it contributes about 15% to the country's total coal production.
  • Most of the coal reserves of Orissa are in Canal Sambalpur and Sundergarh districts. The main coalfield of Orissa is Talcher coalfield.
  • The state of Chhattisgarh has the third-largest coal reserves in the country but it ranks second in terms of production.
  • Major reserves have been found in the districts of Bilaspur, Betul, Chhindwara, Narsinghpur, Raigad.

Gondwana and Tertiary Age Coal

Gondwana Coal

  • The ranges of the Gondwana order were formed in the middle Carbonic period. In its basins sediments were deposited in the period from the Upper Carbonic era to the Jurassic era.
  • Due to the accumulation of sediments, their size became very large.
  • Due to favorable atmospheric conditions, dense forests grew in this area, which was buried under debris due to Hercynian movements.
  • This sequence continued for a long time in a very large area, due to which huge deposits of coal are found in this area.
  • The region was named Gondwana after the ancient Gond kingdom of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Other parts of the Indian landmass are found up to Australia, South Africa, South America, and Antarctica.
  • Its expansion in India is found in 4 major parts –
    1. Damodar river valley area
    2. Mahanadi Valley
    3. Godavari, Wainganga Valley
    4. Kutch, Kathiawar, West Rajasthan, and parts of the Himalayan region.
  • Gondwana coal is the coal of the Carboniferous period. It is found in Damodar Mahanadi, Godavari and Narmada valley.
  • Some of the main coal mines of Godwana Group are Raniganj, Jharia, Bokaro, Ramgarh, Giridih, Chandrapur, Karanpura, Tatapani, Talcher, Himgiri, Korba Valley, Surguja, Wardha Valley, Singareni, and Singrauli.

Tertiary coal

  • This coal has been found in the rocks of the Late Period of the Tertiary Age. This coal is 15 to 7 million years old.
  • This coal is only 2% of the total coal production of India. It is low-grade coal in which the carbon content varies from 30% in Gujarat and Rajasthan to 50% in Assam.
  • Lignite coal is found in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. The largest reserves of various lignites in the country are at Neyveli in Tamil Nadu.

Tertiary age coal deposits:

  • Coal of this age is found in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Jammu, and Kashmir and is also known as brown coal. This coal has high moisture content and low carbon content.

Tamil Nadu

  • Neyveli has the largest deposits of lignite in Tamil Nadu.
  • The thickness of the coal layer is 10 to 12 meters. The carbon and moisture content in this coal is 30 to 40% and 20% respectively while the volatile matter content is between 40 to 45%.


  • The reserves of lignite in this state are in the Bikaner district. The thickness of the coal layer in Bikaner reserves varies between 5 to 15 meters.
  • It is low-grade coal mainly used by thermal power plants and railways.


  • Coal is found in the Bharuch district and Kutch in Gujarat. This coal is of low level in which the carbon content is about 35% and it contains more moisture.

Jammu and Kashmir

  • Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir, Raisi is found in Udhampur districts, Bargaon.
  • It is low-grade coal with more than 30% carbon, more than 15% moisture, and more than 30% vapor content.

Import of coal

  • India will overtake China as the largest importer of coal resources by 2025.
  • Fitch Solutions Macro Research said that between 2019 and 2028, coal consumption in India will grow at 5.4 percent year-on-year.
  • This is because of an equally strong expansion in steel production in the country.
  • Indicators show that India is the largest importer of Australian coal.
  • In the second quarter of 2019, India imported 25.8 percent more coal from Australia on a year-on-year basis.
  • China's imports declined by 8.8 percent during this period. Despite this, it remained the second-largest importer.

Pathetic condition of Indian coal plants

  • It is likely to reach the third position in power generation due to the low-cost power generation from wind and solar plants and the pathetic condition of India's coal-fired power plants.
  • Since India has 1,97,171 MW of electricity generated from coal resources, of which only one-third (65,723 MW) is sufficient to meet our needs, the big question is how to harness it.
  • In 2017, most coal plants in the country produced only 60 percent of the electricity on average. One of the biggest reasons for this was that the electricity produced by wind and solar plants was available at cheap rates.
  • According to experts, if the capacity utilization of coal plants remains below 52 percent, as is expected from the rise of renewable energy, then the existence of coal-fired plants could be at serious risk.

What is coal gasification?

  • Coal gasification is the process of converting coal into synthesis gas, also known as syngas.
  • Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Syngas can be used in a wide variety of applications, including the generation of electricity and the manufacture of a chemical product such as fertilizer.
  • The coal gasification process holds great potential as coal is the most abundant fossil fuel available throughout the world.
  • Apart from this, low-grade coal can also be used in this.
  • Recently, it was decided to award the contract to Talcher Fertilizer Plant of Odisha to start a coal gasification unit for the production of Urea and Ammonia.
  • This will be India's first coal gasification-based plant from which the gas generated will be used as raw material in fertilizer production.


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