To reduce environmental degradation, the Union Coal Ministry has announced stricter provisions for reclamation work in mined out areas
Against the backdrop of serious concern over environmental degradation, the Coal Ministry has announced modified guidelines for mines closure with stricter provisions that provide for reclamation work in a phased manner.
“Mining is to be carried out in a phased manner — initiating afforestation/reclamation work in the mined out area of the first phase while commencing the mining in the second phase, that is continuation of mining activities from one phase to other indicating the sequence of operations depending on the geo-mining conditions of the mine,” the latest guidelines notified by the Coal Ministry stated.
The government has also made it mandatory for all mine owners, who are yet to obtain the approval of mine closure plan, to procure it by January 2014, failing which it has warned to take action against the defaulters. In case of mines of government companies, their board has been delegated for approval of the mining closure plan while in case of others it is a Standing Committee, constituted by the Ministry of Coal.
Under the norms, mine owners would be required to undertake protective measures in the closure plans, including reclamation and rehabilitation works. The guidelines have also made it clear that now up to 80 per cent of the total deposited amount, including interest accrued in the escrow account, may be released after every five years in line with the periodic examination of the closure plan.
It has said the amount released should be equal to expenditure incurred on the progressive mine closure in past five years or 80 per cent — whichever is less. It said the balance amount would be released to the mine holder at the end of the final mine closure on compliance of all provisions of closure plan, duly signed by the lessee to the effect that said closure of mine complied all statutory rules, regulations, orders made by the Central or State government, statutory organisations, court, etc. duly certified by the Coal Controller.
In May 2012, the Coal Ministry had made it mandatory for mine owners to open escrow accounts with scheduled banks, with the Coal Controller's Organisation (CCO) as an exclusive beneficiary. An escrow account is a special account for holding specific funds for disbursement under specific conditions.