In a big relief to small coal mining projects, the government has allowed an expansion of existing projects up to 50% without any public hearing under the environmental appraisal process. The relaxation is only for coal mining projects with annual production of eight million tonnes or less.
The change in rule came last week to allow small coal miners to make maximum of environmental approvals given and to check delay in expanding the project.
The ministry in an office memorandum issued earlier this month said that it has decided to allow one time capacity expansion up to 50%, or incremental production of up to one metric tonnes per annum, whichever is more.
“The ministry of coal have taken up with the ministry, the case of smaller coal mining projects and have urged that the cap of capacity expansion up to 25% for such projects, as per the existing guidelines is inadequate as it results in relatively small increase in production,” the office memorandum said.
Although the coal ministry’s request came a few months ago, the ministry did not take a decision till Veerappa Moily took over. The minister exempted the rule of mandatory public hearing for such projects, curbing the participatory approach in environmental approval process.
The office memorandum also said for the projects having annual production of more than eight metric tonnes the relaxation will not apply. They would be allowed to expand up to 25% of the capacity without the mandatory public hearing as decided in December 2012.
The ministry had given a major relaxation in December 2012 after union minister Jairam Ramesh had made environment approval process mandatory for expansion of coal mining projects saying any expansion would impact the environment.