Coal imports during the 12-month period ending March 31, 2015 had been provisionally estimated to be around 150 to 185 million mt, but the total spend in foreign exchange was expected to fall to levels of around $10 billion.

The lower coal import bill for the current fiscal would be a fallout of slump in international prices of coal the report said citing the example of Indonesian coal (grade above 5,000 Kcal/kg) had fallen from an average of $85/mt during early 2014 to levels of around $60/mt at present.

However, the benefit of a lower coal import bill was unlikely to sustain during 2015-2016, even if international coal prices were to sustain at current levels, since volume imports were expected to rise sharply to 265-285 million mt and import bill in foreign exchange forecast to overshoot the $15 billion mark, the ministry report said.

According to a ministry official, India’s total coal imports were expected to continue on an upward curve despite Coal India Ltd.’s strategic plan to ramp up production to around 1 billion mt by 2019. Even though the Indian government had set CIL a target to double coal production, the miner had been able to achieve small growths during 2012-13 and 2013-14 of about 2.3%.

Per provisional figures available from CIL, in the current fiscal year (2014-15) ending March 31, 2015, the miner would be able to achieve a production of 492 million tons, missing the government set target of 507 million tons for the year, and record a growth of around 7%.