Govt fast-tracks 90 Coal India mining projects

The government has put 90 of Coal India's nearly 150 mining projects, both existing and new, on the fast track, in a bid to augment domestic coal supply and ensure uninterrupted power.

These mining projects would involve investment of an estimated Rs88,000 crore.

The coal ministry has sought faster clearances for CIL's much-delayed projects, despite the cancellation of coal block allocations by the apex court.

Of the 150-odd coal blocks, some have been on the drawing board for decades and if implemented could allay fears of trade unions about CIL's future while also helping to create hundreds of new jobs.

Together, these projects could double CIL's current production capacity thereby ending the country's perennial coal shortage. This along with the proposed auction of coal blocks that the government intends to wrap up in the current financial year, would help give a big boost to coal production in the country.

Coal India trade unions have announced a one-day strike on 24 November, protesting against what they term as a move to allow private companies in commercial coal mining.

"While we are working on rolling out the coal block auctions soon, it is imperative to raise domestic output of coal as well, so we have decided to fast-forward all of Coal India's outstanding projects by flagging them with the project monitoring group in the cabinet secretariat," said a senior government official.

CIL's production beat its target in October, the first time in seven months, as the state-owned miner opened a major mine and there were no rain-related disruptions. The company produced 40.2 million tonnes last month, higher than its target of 39.74 million, it said in a statement on Monday.

April-October production, however, was 97 per cent of its target. 

Coal India started production in July at a 12-million-tonnes-per-year mine, its first major new project in at least five years. The mine is ramping up production but a lack of rail connectivity means it has been able to sell very little.

The world's largest coal miner, which has missed its annual production targets for years, is under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to quickly boost output to cater to fuel-starved power plants.