Centre to ease approval process for mining leases

Mining law to be amended

Updated - August 21, 2019 10:36 pm IST

Published - August 21, 2019 10:35 pm IST - KOLKATA

ATTN. THIS IMAGE IS FOR THE GROUND ZERO STORY DONE BY RAHUL KARMAKAR.
Meghalaya, Jowai : 09/01/2019: Laborers loading coals taken out from rat whole mines in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar / The Hindu 


ATTN. THIS IMAGE IS FOR THE GROUND ZERO STORY DONE BY RAHUL KARMAKAR.
 Meghalaya, Jowai : 09/01/2019: Laborers loading coals taken out from rat whole mines in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar / The Hindu 
 

The Centre is planning to scrap the need for State governments to take an approval from the Centre prior to granting a mining lease to companies, Union Coal Secretary Sumanta Chaudhuri said.

Kicking off a stakeholder consultation process on coal sector issues, he said this would be among the government’s initiatives to speed up operationalisation of coal mines.

“This single move, to be effected through an amendment in Parliament, will reduce the entire process by around a year,” Mr. Chaudhuri said, talking to reporters on the sidelines of a FICCI meeting.

Currently, before granting a mining lease, the State Governments are required to put the proposed project, through a process called ‘prior approval’ under which it had to file an application with the Centre seeking its nod for a project for which clearances had been already granted.

“State-level clearances are necessary but this (prior approval) amounts to duplication and time wastage,” Mr. Chaudhuri said, adding that although since 2014, about 80 allocations were auctioned or nominated for coal mining “the conversion to production has not been great.. there was need to find ways to correct it”, he said.

Former Coal India Ltd. chairman P. S. Bhattacharyya said as steps are taken for import-substitution and correction of structural issues in power sector, the coal sector needs to gear up for meeting an additional demand of 400—425 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) beyond the usual growth, including commissioning of power capacities in the pipeline, that can be met by securing incremental coal production of 40 — 50 MTPA between CIL and SCCL.

Mr. Chaudhuri said that among the several measures being taken to hasten coal projects in the pipeline was allowing the sale of 25% of coal in case of allocation of specified end-use plants.

Ashish Upadhyaya Joint Secretary, Union Coal Ministry, said this would boost the profitability of the firms implementing the projects.

The government is pursuing a carrot-and-stick policy by promoting ease-of-doing business on the one-hand and strict implementation of existing rules, on the other.

“There was reluctance on the part of the allottees to go the extra mile to operationalise mines as they continue to have coal linkages,” Mr. Chaudhuri noted.

He said moves was afoot to bring in more players in coal exploration, in addition to Coal Mine Planning and Design Institute Ltd. “We may do this through the process of empanelling or accrediting some agencies to do the job if they have the requisite technology and expertise,” he remarked later.

The Centre plans to auction within this year 46 coal blocks with a total annual capacity of 100 million tonnes. Hoping to attract more players and operationalise the existing mines, the Coal Ministry is promoting ease-of-doing-business while also holding a series of such meetings in coal-bearing States starting with West Bengal.

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