Coal on the bank of Ajoy River

Industry in West Bengal by P.K. Chakrabarti

The coal industry in West Bengal is now cramped
only to four districts of which Burdwan enjoys the superior most place.
However, in addition to these four districts (Burdwan, Bankura, Birbhum and
Purulia), Darjeeling contributed to coal upto the year 1969.

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The number of mines in Burdwan district,
during a period of sixty three years, that is from 1875 to 1938, increase by
seventy one, while output increased, on an average, by 106 thousand metric
tonnes per year during this period. But the rate of growth of mines was,
however, much higher in the subsequent ten years when output moved up, on an
average, by 46 thousand metric tonnes annually. In this connection an important
fact to noted that the coal resources in West Bengal were exploited mainly by
European enterprises upto 1912. Thereafter the Indian capital mainly of zamindars
and industrial enterprises, being represented by the Indian Mining Federation, entered
into this industry.

The importance of rising coal in the
other four district had always been marginal. In Bankura, there were only four
collieries in the Pre- Independence period. The deposits which occur
exclusively within the Mejia police station are, however, very poor. The
opening of Kalikapur and Bakulia coal mines located at Mejia police station
date back to 1876 and 1897, respectively. (Report
of the Chief Inspector of Mines in India, Government of India, Dhanbad, 1897). It
is not known when the mine located at Bakulia ceased to function. After this,
two collieries where opened upto 1938. During the period, 1946-1968 there more
collieries emerged and of these only one could survive. (Government of India: List of coal mines in India, op. cit., pp. 66-67).  The Coal Survey Advisory Committee (1967-68)
found occurrences of new and workable coal reserves in Mejia area. Recently, a
new mine has been started by the Government in this area. 

Birbhum a colliery was opened having a pit about 75 feet deep in 1901 at Arang
about 28 miles from Suri, on the bank of Ajoy River in the western extremity at
Dubrajpur police station (Majumder
Durgadas, West Bengal District Gazetteers (Birbhum) Government of West Bengal,
Calcutta 1975, chap. V, p.233). It being the only mine in the pre- Second
World War period. The period, 1946-1968, noticed the emergence of five
collieries. (Government of India: List
of coal mines in India, op. cit., pp-82-83). This industry in Birbhum
comprising the collieries at Kankartola, Bhadulia, East Persundi, Gangaramchak,
Russa, Bastapur and Kasta Bengal in khayrasol police station of Suri Sub-
division had steady output upto 1962.

coal mining activities in the Purulia District is concentrated in one area. It has,
however a very limited reserve. Though the seams lie at a shallow depth. upto 1930,
only three collieries were opened. In this district also the growth of finance
capital during the Second World War facilitated the development of three more
collieries. In one coal mine operation continued only for a short period. At present,
the district has seven collieries, two of which were opened after Independence.
(Government of India : list of coal mines in India, p.125. )


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