Stressing on the importance of adequate rail infrastructure and last mile connectivity, the Coal Ministry has cautioned that nearly 290 million tonnes (MT) of coal could face evacuation crisis during the 12th Plan in North Karanpura, Mand Raigarh and Ib and Talcher coal mines in states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa if critical rail links are not put in place on fast track.

The matter has also been brought to the notice of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which has already taken a note of the situation and a meeting on this issue. The PMO has also discussed the possibility of coal supplies for power sector by Coal India Limited (CIL) through imports to bridge the gap between domestic supply and demand. However, this would entail further port and rail connectivity to the consuming centres.

The Railway Board and CIL recently held a brain storming session to discuss the issue after the PMO intervention and discussed taking up three critical rail lines – Tori-Shivpur-Hazaribag line in North Karanpura coalfield in Jharkhand; Bhupdeopur-Korichhapar/Baroud rail line in Mand Raigarh coalfield in Chhattisgarh and Jharsuguda-Barpali rail line in Orissa. The North Karanpura coal field has a potential of realising nearly 100 MT of coal in phases. Similarly, the Mand Raigarh coalfield also holds a potential of 100 MT per annum and the Ib and Talcher coal fields hold a potential of about 90 MT per annum.

During the meeting it was decided that thrust would be laid for completion of Tori-Shivpur section at the earliest as the coal mines projects like Magadh (20 mtpa), Amrapali (12 mtpa). Koed Manatu (10mtpa) and Pachra (15 mtpa) can come up only after the competition of this rail line and there is no alternative for moving such high volumes of coal from these mines. The railways promises to tender for construction of the rail line by December 2012 and the construction period will be 18 months implying completion of the line by June 2014.

Similarly, it was also decided that construction of Bhupdeopur-Korichhapar/Baroud-Dharamjaygarh up to Korba (about 180 Km) rail line was critical for evacuation of nearly 100 MT of coal from Mand Raigarh coal mines. The Bhupdeopur-Korichhapar/Baroud rail link (63 Km) will be done in the phase and South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL), a subsidiary of state-run CIL, will fund this project. A special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be floated to execute this project as per the MoU entered into by railway, Chhattisgarh Government and SECL.

The meeting also took up the construction of the Jharsuguda-Barpalli rail line (52 Km), which is critical for evacuation of coal from Ib valley coal mines with a potential of 90 MT per annum. The acquisition of land by railways has been progressing at a very slow pace and the forest clearance (FC) is also hanging fire for the project which the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) will fund.

It was also decided to bring to the notice of the PMO the impediments in terms of environmental clearance (EC and FC) and need for amicable solutions.

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