SEMC to face water extraction difficulties at Thar coal mining site

Islamabad: After reaching 90 metres depth at Thar coal mining site, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) encountered first water aquifer, which has been drained successfully.

“As per the expectation, we did not face any difficulty in emptying out the first aquifer, as there was not much water in it”, said Shamsuddin Ahmed Sheikh, chief executive officer of SECMC, while talking to APP on Thursday.

Besides mining operation, water extraction process from the second aquifer through pumps from 120 metres depth is also underway, he added. However, the company would have to struggle in draining water from the third aquifer, as it seemed that underground lake existed above coal reserves.

Sheikh said that pumping water from the third aquifer would be a real challenge, as the underground lake is being recharged continuously. “Dewatering will be a continuous process even after mining operation and during extracting coal from the reserves,” he said, adding that dewatering would be possible only when more water will be pumped out than the amount of water being recharged.

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He; however, was very optimistic to drain the water from the third aquifer successfully by extracting more water than that being recharged from the nearby underground lake. The SECMC CEO said the underground water is highly saline and it would be stored in a water reservoir around 26km away from the mining site.

Meanwhile, SECMC chief operating officer Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi said that the water drained from underground at the site would not create problems, as it would be utilised at a later stage when the two Thar coal power projects of 660MW constructed at the mouth of the mine would start operations.

“After recycling, this water would be supplied to the power plants for cooling purposes, which would be a continuous process,” he added.

Thar is home to 175 billion tonnes of reserves, and it is the seventh largest coal reserves in the world, and the largest untapped coal reserves.

Coal mining project has been undertaken for the first time with combined efforts of SECMC, Sindh government and China Power International. The project is also a part of the mega project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“CPEC is crucial to the development of Thar coal, as it enabled the projects to achieve financial close and move into execution,” Sheikh said.

He said work on the coal mining project is going on smoothly and it is hoped: “We will reach at the coal level by the end of the next year.

“As soon as supply of coal to the power plants starts, the commercial operation by the plants would start and it is expected that by the end of the next year or early 2019, first unit of the four power plants would start its commercial operation,” Sheikh added.

Besides coal mining operation, work on 1,320MW plants, comprising four units of 330MW each, costing $2.1 billion on the mouth of the mine is underway as per the schedule, he added

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