Underlining the need for ramping up coal production to meet the growing domestic demand, the Inter-Ministerial Group on PPP in coal mining, comprising the Planning Commission, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and the Coal Ministry, has strongly pressed for Public-Private Partnership mode for mining and evacuation of coal from Coal India Limited-owned mines.

At a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) held recently, the DEA pointed out that there were 180 coal blocks available with CIL, of which some could be given to private sector operators on the PPP basis for mining.

Coal Ministry officials at the meeting said there was an urgent need to involve additional agencies to step up coal production. A senior Ministry official informed the IMG that out of the 116 blocks allocated to CIL, the possibility of undertaking mining through Mine Developers and Operators (MDO) in some of them was under active consideration. CIL was currently trying out various forms of MDO, depending upon the condition of the mine and its requirements. “Various options like deciding whether the clearances and land acquisitions should be taken up by CIL prior to awarding the mine to MDO, or be left to be taken up by the MDO on subsequent reimbursement of cost by CIL are being considered,” the official informed the IMG.

It was pointed out that the option of leaving the choice of technology to the MDO was being explored. CIL has been asked to come up with a detailed plan on this front. It is presently implementing six projects in MDO mode. In case of the coalmine in Rajmahal, production is proposed to be increased from seven million tonnes to 17 million tonnes. In Orissa, there are 20 greenfield sites, which could be taken up through MDOs. As for underground mining in Singareni, all statutory functions are being performed by CIL, while the remaining activities are being undertaken through the MDOs. A senior coal official pointed that coal mining alone wouldn’t achieve the desired results, since evacuation of coal has emerged as a major bottleneck even though the average rate of loading has improved in recent times. “While rail connections are available on the main routes, the last mile connections are presenting problems, even though CIL is willing to fund such infrastructure,” the official said.

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