Started with much fanfare and renewed hope, the fairly transparent coal bidding process has caught by some other bug in Jharkhand. Despite around 15 coal blocks getting allocated to various private companies following the fresh e-auction process that still continues, none of them could see any trace of production so far.
Worryingly most of the coal blocks given in the State have gathered some serious issues related to land revenue or forest and environmental clearances which have halted their way in becoming operational and generate the much sought after mineral.
“It is a cause of worry for the State Government as the trouble is hurting on revenue front along with slowing down the pace of economic development within the State. So far 15 coal blocks located in Jharkhand have been e-auctioned to companies related of power, steel or aluminium, but none of them could start production,” Principal Secretary of Mines Department SK Satpathy told The Pioneer.
While indicating towards the reasons behind, he further stated, “We have come up with a report that suggests that major hurdles in the way are in the form of land revenue and forest and environment clearances and the Government has decided to form a panel headed by the Industry Secretary to look into the matter closely and purposefully.”
The Supreme Court, while hearing cases of coal scam, had cancelled 204 coal blocks and ordered for those to be allocated afresh. The Coal Ministry through e-auction process has given bids or allocated 67 coal mines in 2015 in accordance with the provisions of Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015. As many as 20 of those fall in Jharkhand which also include those allotted to Government owned companies that have been exempted from participating in the competitive bidding process.
Satpathy added that besides Industry Secretary, Secretaries of Mines, land Revenue, Forest and Environment Departments along with Director of Mines have been made members. “The committee would look into the hurdles existing, what should be done to resolve those, location of mines etc. Entire purpose is to make the coal mines functional as soon as possible,” he said.
Brinda and Sasai, Dumri, lohari Meral, Moitra, Ganeshpur, Jitpur, Tokisud North and Kathautia are among the coal mines allocated to non-regulated sector, namely iron and steel, cement and captive power plants and regulated sector like power sector in the State.
Referring about Kathautia coal mine allocated to aluminium major Hindalnco, Satpathy said that so far deemed forest land in the tune of 347 acres have been identified that were under mining without taking desired consent from the Forest and Environment Ministry.
“The matter has stuck as some area of the coal block falls under deemed forest and needs to take forest clearance first. We cannot grant a lease to the new company without it,” said the official.
Notably, Kathautia coal mine was previously owned by Usha Martin which got cancelled and further reallocated to the Aditya Birla firm after an aggressively fought bid. Further, the matter is under probe by the land and Revenue Department.
Also, similar issue relating to PANEM operated Pachwara coal block has surfaced. PANEM had declined to pay fine slapped after the cancelation of the block. The Supreme Court had fixed `295 as additional compensation for every metric tonne of coal extracted and used. The amount in Pachwara’s case was `1,190 crore roughly.