Coal projects can add 25% one-time capacity

Tags: News

Miners can skip public hearing, CIL to benefit

Existing coal-mining projects may now be allowed to undertake one-time capacity expansion of up to 25 per cent, a move that would help Coal India, battling the problem of lower output.

“Now it has been decided that in respect of the existing coal mining projects, which apply for one-time capacity expansion of up to 25 per cent in the existing mining operation, within the existing mine lease area, the guidelines stated in this office memorandum will be applicable in super session of the guidelines of April 15, 2010,” environment ministry has said in a letter to coal ministry.

The office memorandum of the ministry of forest and environment (MoEF) mentions that the existing coal mining projects can skip the process of public hearing for getting environmental cle­ar­ance for one-time capacity expansion of up to 25 per cent.

Earlier, the MoEF minister Jayanthi Natarajan was in favour of a fresh round of public hearing for capacity expansion of existing coal-mining projects, as per sources in the coal ministry.

Sources said the recent memorandum was issued after the intervention of the PMO, which is monitoring the sector.

As per the new norms, such exemption would be considered for those expansion projects, which have obtained prior environment clearance and have already undergone the process of public hearing for getting the green approvals.

Twenty-five per cent expansion in production capacity is subject to a ceiling of 2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of additional production where the transportation of the additional production is proposed by road.

For transportation by means of conveyor or rail, the additional production could be to the extent of 5 mtpa, the new norms said.

The relaxation in norms, as per coal ministry officials, will help Coal India augment its production as its 182 projects are awaiting green nods at various stages. These include existing projects for expansion as well. CIL, the world’s largest coal miner, accounts for about 80 per cent of the domestic production has recorded an output of 435 mt in the last fiscal and has set a target of 464 mt for 2012-13.

Meanwhile, the environment ministry has turned down the coal ministry's request for grant of “in-principle” clearances to mines identified for auction, raising doubts over proposed competitive bidding for captive blocks. “The environment ministry has said that in-principle environment and forest clearances to mines to be auctioned cannot be accorded as it is legally not enforceable,” a source in the coal ministry said.

The coal ministry had earlier expressed the hope that differences with various ministries on the proposed bidding norms for auctioning of captive coal blocks would be resolved.

The unresolved issues include getting “in-principle” environment clearance to the blocks on offer, arriving at a benchmark floor price and offering discounted prices to sectors like power, coal secretary S K Srivastava had said.

The coal secretary had said some ministries are in favour of auction after getting certain approvals, like green clearances, for the mines to be sold. However, it might not be feasible due to procedural reasons, he had said. “We are in touch with MoEF on whether there can be a thing like conceptually providing in-principle approval,” he said.

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