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Indian coal giant targets forests

The world’s largest coal producer, the state-run Coal India Ltd., plans to massively expand mining in forest areas to help meeting surging demand for electricity, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“Our future growth has to come from forest areas,” Coal India chairman S. Narsing Rao was quoted as saying in a recent interview with India Real Time. Rao said that the company is planning new mining projects in forest areas in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, “more than half of India’s total coal resource of 285 billion tons falls in forested areas.” A 2009 ban on mining in forest zones was overturned this year by the country’s environmental minister.

While India has touted net increases in forest cover in recent years, the state has not published any credible data on natural forest cover. Independent analysis by scientists however suggests that India’s native forests declined between 0.8 percent to 3.5 percent per year between 2000 and 2005, a rate of forest loss higher than Brazil.

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