Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal on Thursday said mining should be allowed in 90% of the areas classified as no-mining zones by the environment ministry and a proposal will be tabled before cabinet soon after ascertaining the views of different ministries.
"We have circulated a cabinet note on the possibility of mining in 90% of the forest area of the country. This excludes the 10 per cent dense forest area,” Jaiswal told reporters here.
The proposal clearly states that firms undertaking mining operations in forest areas would be mandated to go for "afforestation” in the region to mitigate the impact of such projects on the environment.
"For every tree cut, companies have to plant three such trees. Coal India is doing such things voluntarily," Jaiswal added.
Last month, a PMO-appointed panel decided to refer the row between the coal and environment ministries over classification of nearly half of the coal-bearing areas in the country as no-mining zones to the cabinet. The government wants to ascertain the availability of domestic coal and for that, "clarity is needed on the issue of no-go and go-mining areas", an official source said.
The environment ministry has declared about half of the coal-bearing forest areas in nine coalfields no-mining zones or "no-go" areas, which has irked the coal ministry that says the country could see a coal shortage of 500 million tonnes in the next few years on account of such a classification.
Jaiswal has already met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought a speedy solution to the row.
Some coal blocks allotted to companies like Hindustan Zinc, Ultra Tech and Essar, along with a few blocks allocated for upcoming ultra-mega power projects, fall in the no-mining zones.
The PMO has been mediating on the issue for the past two months in the hope of finding a solution.
In July, a high-level inter-ministerial panel had recommended that mining be allowed in as many as 77 coal blocks that were named no-go by the environment ministry.
Now, as many as 126 blocks are labelled no-go areas, down from 203 earlier.