India may have to continue coal imports even till 2017: Govt

India may have to continue coal imports even till 2017: Govt New Delhi: India, which imported 110.42 million tonnes of coal during April-January 2013 may have to bank on imports even till 2017 to meet shortages, the government said Monday.

"It is estimated that there will remain a gap between demand and domestic production even by the terminal year of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) which will need to be met through imports," Minister of State for Coal Pratik Prakashbabu Patil told Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

He said the country imported 110.42 MT of coal, mainly from Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and US, between April 2012 and January 2013.

The total production of coal in the country during the last fiscal was 557.5 MT, he said adding coal which is under open general licence can be imported at prevailing international prices by anyone through paying the applicable import duty.

Last year, Planning Commission had said that India's coal imports are likely to touch a whopping 185 MT by 2017, almost 20 percent of the global trade in the sector amid widening demand-supply deficit.

Projecting the imports to touch 185 MT by 2017 against 137 MT by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), the Commission had said there is an urgent need to take effective measures to step up coal production.

"Apart from allowing import of coal, in order to improve the supply of coal, the government has taken measures to step up domestic production to the extent feasible," Patil added.

These include modernisation of technology, infrastructure development, monitoring of coal blocks and periodical review of ongoing projects, besides development of some Coal India blocks through engaging mine developers and operators.