India's minister for coal Sriprakash Jaiswal today said he expected that the auction of coal blocks to private companies would begin by December.
"We are hopeful that the (auction of coal blocks) will begin in December," Jaiswal said on the sidelines of a coal summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi.
His statement comes after the union cabinet recently agreed on the methodology for auctioning coal blocks. The earlier system of ad hoc allocations created what has become known as the 'coalgate' scam.
Jaiswal said the issue is taking time as the coal ministry wants mainly explored blocks to be put up for auction. "Everything is ready. We want that coal blocks should be explored, therefore it is taking time," the minister said.
The cabinet had in September approved the method for auctioning coal blocks, providing for upfront and production-linked payments and benchmarking of coal sale prices.
Coal blocks will be put for auction after the environment ministry reviews them and bidders have to agree to a minimum work programme.
The policy aims at ensuring greater transparency and paving the way for the government to auction explored coal blocks.
The government had earlier allocated 14 coal mines to central and state public sector units, including four to the National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC), the country's biggest power producer, in July.
India plans to auction 54 coal blocks with total estimated reserves of about 18 billion tonnes.