The auction of coal blocks to private firms may get further delayed to March next year as the Coal Ministry has sought from consultancy firm CMPDIL a report on reserves of four more mines.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had earlier said that auction of mines would begin in December.

“The auction of mines is likely by March next year,” an official source said.

The Coal Ministry has asked CMPDIL, the mine planning and consultancy company of Coal India, to assess the reserves of four more mines and submit its report by next year, the official added.

The government which was initially planning to auction six mines in the first tranche is targeting to auction 10 blocks now, the official said.

The Cabinet had earlier approved the methodology for auctioning coal blocks, providing for upfront and production-linked payments and benchmarking of coal sale prices.

Coal blocks will be put up for auction after environment ministry reviews them and bidders have to agree to a minimum work programme, an official statement had said recently.

The policy provides for production-linked payment on a rupee per tonne basis, plus a basic upfront payment of 10 per cent of the intrinsic value of the coal block.

The government had earlier said that exploration activities in identified blocks are at an advanced stage and are likely to be completed soon.

The government had earlier allocated 14 coal mines to central and state public sector units, including four to NTPC, in July.

It had earlier planned to auction 54 coal blocks with total estimated reserves of about 18 billion tonnes.