Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal on Friday said a coal regulatory authority is likely to be in place in the next three months.
The regulator will deal with pricing, gradation and allocation of coal. Coal prices are currently determined by the ministry in consultation with Coal India and Singareni Collieries Co.
"The proposed coal regulatory authority would facilitate standardised operational norms and establish benchmarks in safety standards, performance and productivity through adoption of best mining practices, which in turn would entail effective resolution of problems confronted by the coal miners," Jaiswal said.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech had announced the setting up of a coal regulator and introduction of competitive bidding for allocation of captive blocks. Interestingly, the coal ministry had said it would be set up by mid-March 2010.
"It is expected that this (setting up of regulatory authority) would lead to optimal utilisation of coal resources and ensure the Indian coal companies raise their level of competence to be at par with international competitors," he added, addressing the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata.
The minister also said 40 of the 219 blocks allotted for captive mining have been marked by the union forests and environment ministry as "no-go area".
"The coal ministry has asked the ministry of forests and environment to take a relook at the issue. A meeting pertaining to this is expected next week. We hope to resolve the issue soon," he told reporters on the sidelines of the AGM.
These 40 blocks have a reserve of 600 million tonnes, which is 40 percent of the total reserve allotted for captive mining.
Jaiswal said illegal mining by the coal mafia have reached menacing proportions.
"At least 10,000 mafia operate in coal belts of Coal India Limited. And they do illegal mining of 5-6 million tones of coal every year, which is a huge loss to the state exchequer. The government is giving top priority to stop this menace".
The government is asking all (coal producing) states to set up high-level committees to curb the problem, he added.
The coal ministry will spend Rs.400 crore in the current fiscal 2010-11 for development of transport to the coalfields. Last year, it spent Rs.260 crore.