NEW DELHI Coal India's measures to prevent theft by electronically "fencing" mining areas and fitting trucks with a GPS-based tracking system will be finished by the end of April, a government official said.
As much as a fifth of the state-run company's annual output is stolen, costing it up to $1 billion each year and feeding a huge black market in the fuel.
Coal India's modernisation plan, first reported by Reuters in January, includes tracking trucks and using Google maps to "fence" mines, which will alert managers if a truck diverts from its route.
India's Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said on Monday that reducing the amount of coal stolen and improving the quality of coal sold were his top priorities.
Coal India, the world's largest miner, wants to nearly double output to 1 billion tonnes by 2020 and as already spent more than half of its targeted budget of 3 billion rupees ($45 million) on an overhaul, a top company source said.
Last year, Coal India unit Mahanadi Coalfields blacklisted third-party contractors of 36 trucks, each carrying up to 17 tonnes of coal, after managers received telephone alerts of route violations that could have led to theft.
Mahanadi has also installed CCTV cameras at shipment sites, hooked up trucks with satellites and fitted them with radio frequency identification tags to automatically transfer data to a control room at the company's headquarters.
($1 = 67.1200 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Alexander Smith)
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