Gujarat NRE goes longwall mining

Arun Jagatramka (middle), wife Mona and daughter with miners and workers


Gujarat NRE 1 Colliery

By Neena Badhwar

Driving down the scenic highway leading to Wollongong the coal town where Gujarat NRE have organized a day for all guests to take a look at the huge set up of machinery to demonstrate how   a panel of coal is mined by the huge shearers in front as the hydraulic pistons hold the panels   to secure the roof of the mine from falling while the coal is cut and mined, one can only but admire the big vision of an Indian coalmine owner Arun Jagatramka in the Illawarra region. We are not inside the mine but outside the colliery seeing the equipment as a miner explains to all how the whole thing works. It is a gigantic operation and the miner tells us that it will take six months to set up the machinery inside the mine and will be mining thousands of tonnes of coal in a day.

And as you drive towards the town with vast expanse of scenic ocean dotted with huge freighter ships, about a dozen of them, one does not stop to wonder if any of the ships carry coal to India, thousands of tonnes of black coking coal, trying to meet the ever rising hunger for coal related energy needs of India – now a nation which is demanding and buying minerals and other riches from Australia. Latest entrants from the private sector are the Adani group, GVK and   Arun Jagatramka of Gujarat NRE who has established himself with his company Gujarat NRE Colliery Number 1 and another one at Wongawilli.

Coal is actually abundant in India, as in fact it is the third largest miner whereas Australia comes fourth, of indigenous supplies in the world, with millions of tonnes still yet to be developed. Local coal production has grown 7 per cent annually from 2000 to 2005 till the past two years, when it has declined barely inching above 550 million tonnes.

However, with India’s bureaucratic policies and stricter environmental guidelines, the coal still takes times to slide down the tunnel, forcing private companies to set their sights across the seas. And India knows it cannot just be a simple buyer of coal alone. It has to purchase coal mines around the world.

That’s where Jagatramka’s company Gujarat NRE has come looking for coking coal on Aussie shores. Honoured earlier this year by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrel for his contribution to NSW economy, Arun has definitely decided to make Australia his home. Not only have the Jagatramkas settled with new residence built overlooking the oceans they have become true Aussies by adopting and sponsoring Basket Ball Club Wollongong Hawks and under-age State teams and programs of Cricket NSW. And Gujarat NRE has basically revived the dead mines around Illawarra and have been able to absorb over 500 mining staff and looking after them well as one can see how the life has suddenly come back to a place which lay untended for years. Reviving, energizing the place with plans and vision of an entrepreneur who knows what he is doing, Jagatramka is the buyer in India of his own coal that he produces or mines in Australia carting it from Illawarra to Gujarat.

While mining riches Arun does not stop short of sharing it with people as the family settles in Australia and contributes generously to worthwhile sporting and community bodies. He has recently provided a loan to Shri Shiva Temple at Minto for the upgrade of driveways and carpark. Gujarat NRE has supported over 80 community & sporting establishments believing in the ethos of taking the community along as the company grows.

There are issues such as carbon emissions and hence carbon tax yet Gujarat NRE have looked into those concerns regarding carbon tax and its implications for the company having identified opportunities that would enable both mines to manage fugitive emissions thereby reducing the total greenhouse emissions. Although times may be hard economically worldwide Gujarat NRE is aiming to increase its hard coking coal production with the setting up of longwall machinery.

Morris Iemma at the launch of Gujarat NRE’s longwall machinery

And on October 10 the   Longwall machinery ordered from India is on display for selected guests invited to see how the vision turns into action with Arun Jagatramka. Former Labour premiers Neville Wran and Morris Iemma and Mayor of Wollongong and MPs from Illawarra region are all there on the day sunny enough to stand out and see the machine work out in the open. As we walk from the canopy laid out with food, wine and cool nimbu paani one cannot but wonder about this amazing Indian entrepreneur who has entered the Australian landscape for digging riches out of the Australian soil and helping to employ a whole lot of Australians to meet that vision.

Ex premier Neville Wran at the function

Short URL: