Coal India must buck up, Modi govt tells India's monopolistic miner

Coal India Ltd, the state-owned company that has a virtual monopoly on production of the fuel feedstock in India, has reportedly been asked by the new Narendra Modi-led government to prepare a five-year action plan for increasing output, fast-tracking the completion of projects, and expanding existing coal mines.

The coal ministry (combined with the power ministry in the new dispensation)  has asked CIL to ''expedite completion of projects and expansion of existing projects'' and ''prepare detailed project wise action plan to enhance production in next five years'', according to a PTI report citing an official 'official' source.

The source further said that the coal behemoth has also been asked by the ministry to adopt action plan for technology development and modernisation of mines in Coal India.

Coal India has been asked to develop ''policies and action plan for enhancing underground mining,'' the official added. The company was asked to prepare the blueprint ahead of Piyush Goyal taking charge as minister of state (independent charge) for power, coal and new and renewable energy.

CIL's 241 coal mining projects are stuck in the absence of environment and forestry clearances. At present, 48 environmental clearance proposals, having a capacity of about 109 million tonnes (MT) are awaiting clearances at different levels and 193 forestry proposals are awaiting clearances either at MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) or at the state levels.

The 'maharatna' company [the Indian euphemism for profitable state-run undertakings] accounts for over 80 per cent of the domestic coal output, and produced 462.53 million tonnes of coal in FY 2013-14, missing its target of 482 MT. However, the country's coal production in the last fiscal was 564.7 MT, according to a coal ministry document.

Coal India's production target for 2014-15 has been set at 507 million tonnes.