The 13 captive coal blocks, which were de-allocated by inter-ministerial group (IMG), will remain in abeyance for "several months" - unlikely to be allocated to a public sector firm or a private player.
Sources in the coal ministry said these blocks will not come up for bidding when the ministry auctions a fresh set of 54 coal blocks for captive use by year-end.
"Most of the firms that had their coal blocks de-allocated have been citing slow clearances from government agencies and are likely to approach courts for a stay order," said a senior official in the coal ministry. Such blocks would not be available for "several months" for allocation to either a public or private sector firm, he added.'
This, in effect, means that coal production from the 13 de-allocated blocks is unlikely to begin anytime soon.
The most crucial reason cited by the IMG to recommend de-allocation of coal blocks is the lack of a proper mining plan by the owners. In some cases where mining plans were present, lack of progress in the coal production process led to de-allocation.
The companies that lost their coal blocks, meanwhile, remain tightlipped about their future course of action. Among the firms that had their coal blocks de-allocated are SKS Ispat, Bhushan Steel, IST Steel and Power, Field Mining & Ispat, JSW Group and Himachal EMTA Power, among others.
However, government officials say that private players - in their representations before the IMG - said that delay in environmental clearances and problems with land acquisition were the principal reasons for the slow progress of work. "A general feeling among these block owners was that they are being penalised for the slower rate of clearance from government agencies. All these matters are likely to reach courts for arbitration."
The IMG - headed by additional secretary (coal) Zohra Chatterji - was set up in July to recommend action against coal block allottees that had not met coal production deadlines. Comprising representatives of the coal, law, finance, power, steel, commerce and industry ministries, the group is reviewing as many as 58 coal blocks allocated to firms.