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42 firms take part in first commercial coal block auction

While a total of 38 coal mines were put for auction, 76 bids were received for 23 coal mines

Adani Enterprises Ltd, Hindalco Industries Ltd, JMS Mining Pvt. Ltd, Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corp. (APMDC) Ltd, EMIL Mines and Minerals Resources Ltd, Vedanta Ltd and Jindal Power Ltd are among 42 firms that have bid for 23 coal mines put on auction for commercial mining, the coal ministry said in a statement. Two or more bids have been received for 19 coal mines, the statement said.

While a total of 38 coal mines were put for auction, 76 bids were received for 23 coal mines. The remaining 15 mines did not receive any bid.

The auction was launched by the coal ministry on 18 June, with the technical bids opened on Wednesday.

While Adani Enterprises has bid for seven blocks, Hindalco and JMS Mining have bid for five blocks each, with APMDC Ltd, Aurobindo Realty and Infrastructure and EMIL Mines and Minerals Resources bidding for four blocks each. Vedanta and Jindal Power bid for three and two blocks respectively.

The maximum of eight bids each were received for the Gare Palma IV/7 block in Chattisgarh and Gotitoria (East) & Gotitoria (West) in Madhya Pradesh respectively.

The auction followed a decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in May to award coal and lignite blocks on a revenue-sharing basis. There will be no restriction on the sale and utilization of coal from these mines. Earlier, blocks were awarded on a fixed payment per tonne basis, which the government believed was impeding production.

India’s push to raise production of natural resources to revive economic growth comes at a time when the window for fossil fuels is closing and the global energy landscape is evolving. There have been fundamental changes in investment culture for the energy sector amid growing climate concerns.

“The bids will be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary technical evaluation committee and technically qualified bidders would be shortlisted for participation in the electronic auction to be conducted on MSTC portal from 19 October," the statement added.

“This auction process marks the opening of Indian coal sector for commercial mining and will enable the country to achieve self-sufficiency in meeting its energy needs and provide thrust to economic development and employment generation," coal, mines and parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi had said at the launch.

Despite having the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves, India imports around 235 million tonnes (mt) of coal, of which around 135 mt valued at 1.71 trillion could have been met from domestic supply.

The Union government has been trying to raise India’s coal output. In 2018, it had allowed commercial mining by private entities. In an attempt to attract investments in coal mining, the government had approved the promulgation of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020. It allowed coal mining by any company present in sectors other than steel and power, and did away with the captive end-use criteria.

The new strategy was articulated by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman while announcing that the government will further open up commercial coal mining with a revenue-share arrangement to boost local production.

Also, there will be no distinction between captive and non-captive mines that will allow transfer of mining leases.

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