No power? Blame 'idle' coal blocks

  • Anupama Airy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Aug 21, 2012 01:13 IST

After drawing flak from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) over its coal allocation policy, the coal ministry has got into the action mode. The ministry, which is facing repeated criticism for the ongoing shortfall in coal supplies resulting in inadequate power generation in the country, has decided to come down heavily on all private and state-owned power companies who were allotted captive coal blocks during 2004 to 2007 but are yet to make these blocks operational.

A huge list of notices will soon be issued to a number of public and private power companies for slow progress on the development of coal blocks. The ministry, in some cases, may also look at de-allocation of blocks.

The ministry is now looking at alternative routes for fasttrack development of these blocks by allotting them under the public-private partnership route to a new joint venture company comprising of Coal India Ltd and a private company, said sources.

"Strict implementation parametres will be set for this JV company that will develop these blocks on a fast-track basis," a senior ministry official told HT.

As CIL is government-owned, the ministry can allocate mines to it without being questioned on the allocation process.

According to an internal note of the ministry, public sector companies alone including NTPC and Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) were allotted 14 captive coal blocks during the period with geological reserves of almost 7.8 billion tonnes of coal — sufficient to fuel power capacities of around 36,000 MW.

"However, only one block (Barjora North) has been made operational so far by DVC and the rest of the coal blocks are lying with these companies," said the note of the ministry.

For instance, the 3-mtpa (million tonnes per annum) mining plan for Kagra Joydev coal block was approved by the ministry in October 2006. "Most of the times companies cite lack of forest clearance coming in the way of timely development of coal blocks. In case of Kagra Joydev, no forest area comes under this coal block but it is still not operations," the ministry official said.

A DVC official said while mining operation begun in December 2011, it came to a halt due to local unrest. "We have already informed the ministry that the work was expected to resume by September, 2012 and coal production was expected by November."

Another coal block, Gondulpara, allocated to DVC and Tenughat Vidyut Nigam Ltd (TVNL) jointly is stuck for environment clearance despite the mining plan of 4 mtpa being approved by the coal ministry in June 2009. "We have already recommended the block for de-allocation," the ministry official said, adding that many such blocks have been identified for de-allocation.


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