“Coal imports will continue to decline in the current fiscal due to unprecedented rise in domestic production and imports will continue to decline through the remaining months of this fiscal,” Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said.

Indian imports during 2014-2015 were 212 mt and given the falling trends over the past months, the ministry was expecting shipments to be at least 10-15% lower during the 12-month period ending March 31.

The ministry said Coal India Ltd. (CIL), which accounted for over 80% of domestic supply of coal would continue to sustain growth in production and the country’s import dependency would fall and all import end by 2017-2018. However, it added that small volume imports would continue to be contracted by few coastal thermal power plants owing to logistical cost benefits of imported coal vis-à-vis domestically transported coal supplies.

The 9% fall in coal imports during April-November 2015 was matched by a equivalent 9% growth in coal production by CIL, over the corresponding period of 2014, at 312 million mt.

However, according to a CIL official, challenges before the miner has shifted from issues of production growth to issues of achieving sales and off-take by bulk consumers.

CIL’s sales target during April-December 2015 was 2.5% lower at 389 million mt reflecting lower off-take largely by thermal power plants across the country, saddled as were with higher than normal fuel stocks.

Several thermal power plants across Indian states, like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, have unofficially asked CIL to ease off supplies, which would force the latter to maintain higher pit-head stocks while maintaining growth in productions.