For glass, the base raw material is silica. The head of the largest glass manufacturer, Saint Gobain Glass India, B Santhanam, recently pointed to such high quality material available at the Neyveli lignite mines.
At Neyveli, the lignite seam is reached after removing the over-burden of different types of earthen materials at a depth of around 100 meters. Santhanam said that the layer above the lignite seam is of high quality silica suitable for the manufacture of glass. Research efforts are directed at maximising the yield of such material. Saint-Gobain is setting up its third glass float line at Sriperumbudur which is emerging the largest such facility at a single location. The company could breathe easy for meeting its raw material needs nearly.
Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC), set up during the second plan, started as the largest integrated mining cum power producer in the country. Presently, Neyveli mines with capacity of 30 million tonne of lignite, support power generation of 3253 MW. For mining each ton of lignite mine, NLC has to remove 11 tonnes of overburden.
The clay of certain characteristic was also considered to be excellent material for the manufacture of ceramic products. The Seshasayee group of companies set up the Seshasayee Industries and Neyveli Ceramic Industries at nearby Vadalur and later a ceramic tiles unit in Puducherry. There were expectations of a large number of ceramic and chemical units to flourish with the giant NLCs support. Unfortunately, there was not much coordinated effort between the Central PSU and the state government to exploit the potential of this highly successful unit. I hope a better business orientation on the part of NLC and a closer involvement of the state and the Centre would help NLC draw its full potential.
One needs to compare the strident growth recorded by NTPC that was set up two decades after NLC. NTPC has installed a capacity of 45,798 MW, revenues of Rs 73,543 crore and net profit of Rs 10,291 crore as for 2014-15. Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Power, Coal and Renewable Energy, has brought about a spectacular transformation of the power sector, reviving lot of latent capacity as also better coordination between coal and power ministries. He would do well to look at the enormous potential of Neyveli to excel also by the utilisation of its several by products. - SV