Coal supply to thermal plants in Punjab to be hit

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2015 10:18 IST

There is uncertainty over the supply of coal to the state-owned thermal power plants in Rupnagar, Bathinda and Lehra Mohabbat (Bathinda district) in the upcoming financial year (2015-16).

The operator of a joint-venture coal mine owned by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) in Pachwara, Jharkhand, has expressed its inability to carry out mining activity, citing lack of funds, and has asked the Punjab government to send the pay the coal and freight charges in advance.

Panem, which operates the coal mine, is a joint venture between the Eastern Mineral Trading Agency (EMTA) and the PSPCL. After the cancellation of coal blocks by the Supreme Court in September last year, Panem had conveyed to the state government that it couldn’t operate the mine as no financial institution was lending help due to the uncertainty over the re-allotment of the mine.

“We have agreed to make advance payment to the mine operators,” deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal told HT, after the cabinet gave its nod in his regard on Monday. They (mine operator) would pay us interest on the advance payment, added Sukhbir, who also has the power portfolio.

As per the SC order, the mine can only be operated till March 31; after that, it has to be re-auctioned.

Secretary (power) Anirudh Tiwari admitted that there was uncertainty over coal supply after March 31. On being asked about the alternative arrangement, he hoped that the things would be sorted out by then.

“We are in the process of getting the mine re-allotted to Punjab and are also taking part in the bidding process,” said Tiwari.

He added that paying in advance to the mine operator would not cost anything extra, adding that only the mode of payment had changed.

Before its unbundling, the Punjab State Electricity Board (now PSPCL) owned this mine since the early 1980s. The PSPCL has not deposited Rs 389 crore with the Union ministry of coal against the penalty imposed by the SC, being charged at the rate of Rs 295 per tonne of coal used so far.

The Panem mine is supplying 7 to 8 million tonnes of coal to the three state-owned thermal power plants of Punjab, fulfilling 50-60% of the plants’ total coal requirement of 13 million tonnes. The rest is provided by mines of Coal India Limited.

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