The ministry of coal is devising methods to penalise coal block operators falling behind targeted production and revenue payment to states. Government officials said a committee has been formed under the secretary of coal ministry and with chief secretaries of mine-bearing states as members to decide the modus operandi to clear bureaucratic hurdles related to land, forest clearances, etc. According to the coal ministry, of the 34 auctioned or allotted mines, vesting order has been issued for 29. Of these, 15 have started production of close to 15.32 million tonnes. “Of 17 mines allocated to private/public companies through auctions, 12 have started production. With respect to five, the process of taking penal action has started. Out of the 18 Schedule-II mines allotted to PSUs, three have become operational and others are expected to be operationalised in the next year,” said a senior ministry official. Coal production from the auctioned 29 mines stood at 15.32 million tonnes during 2016-17. This, the government said, was close to the production by these mines in 2014-15 when they were re-allocated. Cumulative production was 15.8 million tonnes then. Of the eight power companies that were allocated coal blocks, five have moved court to challenge the government’s decision to disallow pass-through of quoted discount on coal cost on the final power tariff. For mines in Jharkhand, government officials said land and forest clearances were stuck due to the slow marking of forest land by the state.
The Jharkhand government started marking forest and non-forest land for ease of doing business. But the process is far from over, thereby putting in soup a lot of coal mine owners who received the mine in the 2014-15 auction but haven’t started any work yet.The committee would look into these procedural issues and suggest solutions to expedite the mining process, said officials. The coal ministry told Business Standard the progress in operationalisation of auctioned mines has been satisfactory. “The delays in development of some of the mines have been due to legal and clearance-related issues at the state level. The central government has been proactive and clear in its policy and its implementation to bring the blocks into operation at the earliest,” said the ministry. After the Supreme Court cancelled all coal blocks allocation of the past two decades in August 2014, the ministry of coal started re-allocation reserves via transparent e-auctions. It allocated 34 operational coal mines to private companies through auctions and to states through allotment — for power and non-power sectors. The revenue estimated to be collected was Rs 2.85 crore over 30 years for mine-bearing states. In the first e-auction of coal blocks during 2014, 34 coal blocks went to private companies, including Hindalco, Balco, Jindal, JSW, Adani, GMR and Essar.