Amid a ministerial dispute over an environmental issue related to coal mining, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is understood to have today asked the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to be more lenient.
Mr. Mukherjee also asked the environment and the coal ministries to rework the list of areas where coal could be excavated, particularly keeping in mind the upcoming initial public offer (IPO) of Coal India Ltd.
The direction came during a meeting held by Mr. Mukherjee with Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal.
Besides, Mr. Mukherjee told Mr. Ramesh that his ministry should take more lenient view on the mining issue in the national and economic interest, an official in the know of the development said.
Environment and coal ministries are locked in a dispute over restrictions imposed on mining in as much as 50 per cent areas of the nine coalfields, including in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh.
When contacted, Mr. Jaiswal said, “There is no hard and fast rule on no-go areas (marked by the environment ministry) and a final a decision would be taken by the government later.”
Mr. Mukherjee is believed to have favoured a more considerate view to be taken with regard to ‘no-go’ and ‘go’ areas for coal mining and said that a joint committee now needs to assess the impact of such classification on the CIL, in which the government is shortly coming with a public issue possibly to mop up close to Rs. 15,000 crore.
Restrictions on mining in some of the areas falling under forest cover could be an area of concern for CIL when it files for draft prospectus (DRHP) with the market regulator SEBI for the IPO that could hit the market by third week of October.
Mr. Jaiswal had also met Mr. Mukherjee last night and is understood to have sought his intervention with the suggestion that the entire issue of mining and environment be considered by an empowered group of ministers.
The nine coalfields where 203 blocks having 48 percent of the reserves were declared in the no-go area by the Environment Ministry include Talcher (Orissa), the IB-Valley (Orissa), Mand-Raigarh (Chhattisgarh), Sohagpur (MP), the Wardha Valley (Maharashtra), Singrauli (Andhra), North Karanpura (Jharkhand), and West Bokaro (Jharkhand).
Earlier prompted by the Prime Minister’s Office, a high-level inter-ministerial panel has recommended that mining be allowed in as many as 77 coal blocks that were made a no-no affair by the Environment Ministry.
In a recent communication to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Coal Ministry has said that now only 126 blocks are part of the “no-go” area as against earlier 203. The PMO undertook a few joint meetings with the officials of both the ministries in the last two months as the Environment Ministry put almost half of the regions of these nine coal fields in the “no-go” zone.