Coal Ministry proposes expert panel to expedite overseas acquisition

Coal Ministry proposes expert panel to expedite overseas acquisition

New Delhi: The Coal Ministry has proposed an inter-ministerial expert panel for fast-track acquisition of overseas assets, as part of its strategy aimed at bridging the coal deficit that is likely to double to 142 million tonnes next fiscal.

“The Ministry has proposed for setting up an expert group comprising representatives from Ministry of External Affairs and Department of Economic Affairs besides Coal India to design an action plan for acquiring assets abroad by 31 October, this year," a senior Coal Ministry official told PTI.

The Ministry’s strategic plan is aimed at promoting coal companies mainly Coal India to acquire assets abroad in order to meet the growing requirement of the dry-fuel, mainly by the power sector, the official said.

The panel’s official said, “recommendations will be made available by 31.3.2012. We propose examination of the recommendations and implementation by 31 March, 2013".

India had to import 72 million tonnes (MT) of coal to meet domestic demand last fiscal while it is likely to go to 82 MT this fiscal and 142 MT in 2011-12.

The coal deficit being faced by power utilities alone is expected to double to 104 MT in the next fiscal, which the government say further increase as coal will contribute 51% share in domestic electricity generation by 2031-32.

The official said the progress of the expert panel’s recommendations will be monitored quarterly by the Ministry.

To meet the domestic shortfall, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has already asked CIL, which accounts for over 80% domestic production, to look for acquiring assets abroad.

Meanwhile CIL, is in advanced talks with US-based Peabody Energy Corp for buying up to a 15% stake in its Australian assets.

Apart from Peabody, the company is also eyeing the West Virginian assets of another American company and is in talks with US’s Massey Energy and Indonesian Novem/Sinarma for a possible partnership on their respective mining projects.

The Navratna firm has already earmarked Rs6,000 crore for acquisitions abroad for the current fiscal.

The state-run firm had already won twin coal blocks in Mozambique in August 2009 with an estimated one billion tonnes of reserves.

Meanwhile, the government had already approved constitution of a ministerial panel for early resolution of issues hurting coal production to tide over the widening demand-supply gap after denial of permission by Environment Ministry to mine coal from 203 blocks in ‘no go´ areas.

Jaiswal had said that not permitting coal mining in 203 blocks would affect about 1,30,000 MW potential power generation capacity per annum.