Around 12 million tonnes of coal was lost due to the absence of regulatory clearances in 2013-14 The Hindu has learnt.

This accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the 19.5 million tonne shortfall reported by Coal India Ltd (CIL) in the just closed financial year.

Enquiries revealed that of the 19.5 million tonnes, five million tonnes was lost due to Cyclone Phailin, two million tonnes due to CIL’s internal reasons, while as much as 12 million tonnes was lost due to delays in environment and forest clearances by the Central and State governments.

Delays in environmental and forest clearances occurred mostly in the Bhubaneswar-based Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd. (MCL), which accounted for 10.5 million tonnes of the 12 million tonnes lost. However, it also occurred in Northern Coalfields Ltd based in Varanasi and South Eastern Coalfields Ltd based in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur.

The single largest loss, of 6 million tonnes, was due to the delay in forest clearance at the Bharatpur Colliery in MCL.

“Since we already had on hand the Stage I clearances, we had expected the Stage II clearance, which is really just a formality, by October 2013. But this came in February 2014. We had environment clearance for 15 million tonnes but we had land only for 6 million tonnes and needed forest clearance for the remaining portion,” a senior official said, who did not wish to be identified.

“In a similar manner, we lost production at the mines of Lakhanpur, also in MCL where we cut back our production from a potential of 40,000 tonnes daily to 2,000 tonnes just because the clearances were not in place,” sources said, adding that nearly 3.75 million tonnes was lost in this case.

Chasing a stiff target of 507 million tonnes in the current fiscal, CIL has decided to pursue the respective State governments for the clearances, which are often delayed due to bureaucratic reasons.

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