Following protests from the Chhattisgarh government, the Union Ministry of Coal has revised the list of mines to be auctioned for commercial mining and now 38 blocks will go under the hammer instead of the 41 mines announced earlier.
The revision in the list includes addition of three blocks — Dolesara, Jarekela, and Jharpalam-Tangarghat (in Chhattisgarh) — and withdrawal of five blocks in an ecologically sensitive zone near the Hasdeo River: Morga South, Fatehpur, Madanpur (North), Morga-II, and Sayang (in Chhattisgarh).
“Accordingly, 38 coal mines are offered for auction for commercial mining under 11th tranche of auction under the Coal Mining (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, and the first tranche of auction under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957,” the Ministry of Coal said in a statement.
Mine-bearing states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh had protested against the timing of the auction due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Jharkhand had also moved court against the Centre’s decision to hold commercial coal auction in the middle of a pandemic. The state had said the bids would be subdued and would hurt its revenue. The coal ministry had earlier dropped one mine from Maharashtra after the state said it fell in the ‘tiger zone’.
The Centre for Science and Environment had also pointed out in its latest report that “of the 41 blocks put up for auction, 21 feature in the original no-go list.” The report noted since 2015, of the 49 blocks cleared for coal mining, nine were in the no-go areas. No-go refers to unfragmented forest landscapes having a gross forest cover more than 30 per cent and ‘weighted forest cover’ more than 10 per cent.
The Centre had started the coal mine auction — for commercial mining and sale by private companies — in June. The bidding terms were liberalised to attract foreign players, non-mining entities, and large miners. In May, it amended the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, to simplify the auction process and attract significant investor interest.
The online auction of coal blocks for commercial mining and sale to private companies will commence in October. The final winners will be declared in November.