Coal ministry seeks Cabinet nod for mining in 90% of ‘no go’ areas

Coal ministry seeks Cabinet nod for mining in 90% of ‘no go’ areas

New Delhi: Coal ministry has sought the Cabinet approval for its proposal that mining be allowed in 90% of coal blocks labelled as ‘no-mining´ areas by the environment ministry.

The Coal Ministry in a note to the cabinet secretary has sought expeditious forest clearance for all coal blocks under ‘no go´ areas except 10% of them, a coal ministry official told PTI.

“Two hundred and six coal blocks spread across 4039 sq km in nine coalfields involving a production potential of 660 million tonnes (MT) have been designated as ‘no go´ areas by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) whereas coal ministry wants 90% of these be freed from the restriction," the official said.

The draft sent to the cabinet secretary mentions, “All the proposals should be considered for forestry clearance unless these are insurmountable issues on grounds of biodiversity, wildlife reserves and rich forests."

It said that the project promoters can be mandated to regenerate the forest areas.

The MoEF has divided the mineral bearing regions into ‘go´ and ‘no-go´ areas. As per the guidelines, the mining is allowed only in the ‘go´ areas.

After going through the proposal, the cabinet which is likely to take up the matter soon may constitute a ministerial panel to resolve the conflict, the official said.

However, a final call is likely to be taken by the Prime Minister’s office, he said.

The proposal was prepared after ascertaining views of different ministries, the official said, adding that even the Planning Commission has raised no objection to this.

In September, a PMO-appointed panel had decided to refer the row between the coal and environment ministries to the Cabinet after classification of nearly half of coal-bearing areas in nine coalfields as “no go" areas by the latter.

Debarring such big areas with production capacity of 660 million tonnes coal from mining will adversely impact power generation capacity, the coal ministry proposal has argued.

The ministry is of the view that the country could see a coal shortage of 500 million tonnes in the next few years on account of such a classification.

Several coal blocks in the “no go" areas had been allotted to firms like Hindustan Zinc, Ultra Tech, Essar etc.

Such categorisation has also put several existing and upcoming coal mining operations, including captive mines of two ultra mega power projects on bidding in Chhattisgarh and Orissa, under ‘no go´ besides affecting CIL’s operations.

The PMO has been mediating on the issue for the past about three months for finding a solution.