Coal mines on auction should come with eco clearance, say investors

Stakeholders attending a meeting of the coal ministry have insisted that mining blocks that are being offered for commercial coal mining should have prior environmental clearance, so that issues like violation of environmental laws do not crop up during the development of these blocks.

Some of the prominent players who participated in the meeting held last month to discuss methodology for commercial coal mining included major industrial groups such as Tata Steel, JSW Steel, Adani Power, JSPL, Hindalco and GMR Power among others.
Participants have requested the government to ensure that blocks auctioned for commercial coal mining do not later give rise to issues like 'inviolate areas', ie, sights of significance for conservation of biodiversity (flora and fauna) and forest types that are unique and ecologically important.
"The mines may be cleared from the environmental angle so that issues like safety zones, inviolate areas may not crop up later during development of mines," a source said.
During the meeting, the stakeholders also requested that sufficient large mines should be earmarked for the industry, instead of numerous small mines, the source said.
The participants were also of the view that the "terms and conditions are liberal and conform to the government's intentions of opening up the Indian coal sector," the source added.
The government had called meetings with various stakeholders to discuss the draft methodology as well as key bidding terms and conditions for auction of coal mines for commercial mining.
Earlier, the government had said that it is initiating the process of coal auctions and the first round of sale of blocks under commercial mining is proposed to be launched before the end of the current fiscal.
The announcement came days after the government approved an ordinance to ease coal mining laws that will see more local and global players enter the Indian coal sector.
A company or a joint venture company incorporated in India is eligible to participate in commercial coal auctions, the coal ministry had said.
"Moving ahead after the recent amendments in MMDR Act 1957 and the CMSP Act 2015, the ministry of coal is initiating the process for auction of coal mines for sale of coal. Expected to be held in multiple tranches, the first tranche is proposed to be launched in the current financial year," the government had said.
The bidders would be required to bid for a percentage share of revenue payable to the government. The floor price shall be four per cent of the revenue share, the coal ministry notice had said.
The government has released a list of 74 mines which it plans to auction under commercial mining.
The ministry had said it has urged interested stakeholders to view the discussion paper and the mine specific details and submit their views/ suggestions, indicating their preferences for the mines to be considered for auction under the first tranche.