Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday asked the Environment Ministry to provide additional forest land to Coal India for mining before its disinvestment by September this year.
The government is planning to disinvest 10 per cent of its stake in the public sector unit. But before that it wants to settle a long-pending dispute between the Environment and Coal ministries over “go” and “no-go” mining areas in forest land across several states.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Mukherjee to find a solution. Mukherjee met officials over the last two days and agreed with the Coal Ministry’s contention that Coal India’s IPO would fail if more forest land is not provided to it.
As per the Coal Ministry’s estimate, the public sector unit will be able to conduct mining operations only in 44 per cent of the area it has, if the Environment Ministry’s categorisation of “go” and “no-go” areas were accepted.
Coal Ministry officials said the categorisation should be increased to at least 70 per cent and the Environment Ministry had asked it to review the categorisation.
Earlier, Environment had designated 3,40,000 hectares of forest land as “go” areas for mining but increased it to 3,80,000 hectares after Coal Ministry opposed. The Coal Ministry was not happy with this as it was seeking an increase of 30 per cent in “go” areas.
According to officials, Coal India will get additional forest land for mining over the 3,80,000 hectares where Environment Ministry will consider mining proposals. Mukerjee heard Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal’s contentions and agreed to the compromise formula.