With eco issues coming in the way of enhancing output, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today said a consensus has been reached with the environment ministry to sort out many contentious issues in the sector ahead of the crucial Group of Ministers (GoM) meet.

This follows an hour-long meeting Mr. Jaiswal had with Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh for resolving major issues hurting coal production.

“We have arrived at a consensus on many issues and are hopeful to resolve majority of them before the GoM on coal. We are meeting again on February 10,” Mr. Jaiswal told reporters today after Mr. Ramesh called on him.

According to the Coal Ministry’s estimates, the widening demand-supply gap of the fossil fuel is likely to touch 142 million tonnes next fiscal from projected 84 million tonnes in the current fiscal.

“Both the ministries would come out with decisions that would be in the interest of the country, its industrialisation and augment its power generation capacity,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

The Environment Ministry had prohibited mining in ‘no-go’ areas disallowing mining in 203 blocks with the potential of producing 660 million tonnes of coal a year. Coal exploited from these blocks could have been used to generate around 1.3 lakh mega watt of power per annum.

Concerned over coal shortages faced by various sectors, including power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to revisit its policy of ‘no-go’ and ‘go’ areas and address the issues within two months.

Dr. Singh has also approved the formation of a 12-member GoM to be headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for ironing out the vexed issue of “go” and “no-go” areas in coal blocks.

“We are hopeful to resolve all issues, as per the Prime Minister’s direction, within two months,” Mr. Jaiswal said, adding that the approach of the Environment Minister in today’s meet was “very positive”.

Coal Minister said that the consensus is likely on underground mining in the blocks falling under the “no-go” zone.

Asked about coal shortage as Coal India’s 17 projects fall under the “no-go” classified area, Mr. Jaiswal that the PSUs production would not be impacted next year as the issues would be solved by then. “So far, whatever is the impact, it has been done. But, in future these issues will be resolved,” he said.

Coal India, which accounts for over 80 per cent of India’s production, is likely to suffer a marginal short-fall in its targeted 431.5 million tonnes production for this fiscal. Its output target for 2011-12 is 460.5 million tonnes.

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