New Delhi: In a move that could usher in an era of competitive bidding in allocation of coal and lignite blocks for captive mining, the government has convened a meeting of 17 states having coal and lignite reserves next month to discuss changes in the existing policy.
The meeting, scheduled for 10 August and to be chaired by Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, would discuss changes in the policy relating to use of coal bearing land and firm up a competitive bidding process.
The Minerals and Metals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 governs at present the process of exploration, mining and allotment of coal and lignite blocks. A screening committee of the ministry allocates blocks for captive use after assessing the requirement of applicants on the basis of certain techno-economic criteria.
The meeting will hold elaborate discussions on the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on Coal and Steel on Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2008, presented in the Parliament on 19 February.
One of the key issues will be “preparation of Land Use Maps in respect of coal bearing land to restrict its use,” for coal mining only, a source told the agency.
Jaiswal in his letter to the chief ministers has said, ”in the recommendations made (by the parliamentary standing committee), it has been suggested, inter-alia, that further consultations should be held with the states and other stakeholders before any further action is taken on the Amendment Bill.“
Others issues to be taken up in the crucial meet will be resettlement and rehabilitation, obligations towards community welfare and peripheral area development (corporate social responsibility) and establishment of a Local Area Development Authority by the state governments.
Earlier, the government had introduced the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2008 in the Rajya Sabha, which was referred to parliamentary standing committee on coal and steel for detailed examination.
Ministers of Mines and Geology of coal bearing states including Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are likely to attend the meet.
Apart from these, ministers from lignite bearing states — Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Pondicherry and Kerala will attend.
The coal ministry has so far allotted 196 captive coal blocks with a cumulative reserve of 51 billion tonnes. The blocks are exclusively meant to cater to the captive coal requirements of the allottees.
The coal minister has said that allotments will be cancelled in case of those firms which have not developed those despite sufficient time given to them.
“We will first examine the reason behind such a delay. If after getting all the necessary approvals, the firm has not yet developed the blocks, their allotments will be cancelled,” he had said.
Earlier in 2009, the ministry had reviewed the progress of work on the captive coal blocks allotted to the private and public sector companies between 2003 and 2007 and had decided to serve de-allocation notices on 14 coal properties.