Cabinet approves bill to replace ordinance on coal mines auction

The union cabinet on Tuesday cleared a bill on coal block auctions to replace an ordinance that was promulgated to commence auction of coal mines cancelled by the Supreme Court (See: President signs ordinance on e-auction of cancelled coal blocks).

The bill to replace the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014 is likely to be brought before Parliament during the current session.

"There are some small technical changes and a change in the definition of private parties," minister of state (independent charge) for power, coal and new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal, said today.

The Supreme Court had in September cancelled allocation of 204 coal blocks, including 42 operational mines and another 32 ready-to-start blocks (Supreme Court cancels allocation of 214 coal blocks, spares 4).

The government promulgated the ordinance to start the process of auctioning at least 74 operational or ready-to-operate blocks with the target of allocating them by March, well before the Supreme Court deadline for companies operating mines to wind up operations.

Central trade unions, including BJP-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), AITUC, CITU, HMS and INTUC, have jointly opposed the government's proposal to allow private players to mine coal and sell it in the open market, a right till now reserved with state-owned Coal India Limited.

The auction will be for the private sector, while state-owned companies will get mines via allotment.

The government had last week announced auctioning and allotment of 74 blocks with recoverable reserves of 210 million tonnes of coal in the first phase of bidding.