The Talabira II and Talabira III coal blocks allotted to a joint venture of comprising Aditya Birla-owned Hindalco and now at the centre of CBI investigation may not be ready for mining for at least the next three years.
The coal blocks were allocated to MNH Shakti Ltd,a joint venture company of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited,Hindalco Industries Limited and Neyveli Lignite Corporation in the ratio of 70:15 :15.
The coal blocks in Ib Valley are spread over seven villages in Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts. Talabira-II and III have a total coal reserves of 553 million tonnes.
Chairman of MNH Shakti Ltd,JP Singh told The Indian Express that the joint venture would take at least three years before it gets the necessary environmental and forest clearances.
This is because more than half of the coal block spread over 2,000-odd hectares is in forest land. MNH Shakti has already got a 30-year coal mining lease for the area.
Nothing has started as on date. We have just sent our papers for first stage forest clearance. Meanwhile,we would apply for environmental clearance. Looking at the pace of things I am not sure when we would get them, Singh said over phone from his office in Sambalpur district.
On paper,we have acquired the 1,500-odd hectares of government land. But we are yet to get possession as we have to convince the residents to leave the area. We have started talking to people of 2-3 villages. Lets see, he said.
It is the environmental clearance process that has proved to be the bugbear. Although a public hearing for environmental clearance was held at Malda village of Jharsuguda in May last year,locals opposed the project insisting that all the displaced be given permanent jobs.
When the officials of MNH Shakti could not commit,the public hearing ended in a failure,said Singh. The company is planning to hold another hearing this month.
The forest clearances may not be easy too as people at Khinda,one of the affected villages,have started agitation against the project saying they would not allow destruction of the forest cover there. Last June,the residents refused to attend a palli sabha for agreeing to the proposal of conversion of forest land.
A total 2,046 families involving 10,230 persons would be affected due to this project. The company said that it can directly recruit 1,812 people and another 427 on contractual basis.
Meanwhile,the BJD on Sunday defended chief minister Naveen Patnaiks August 2005 letter to the Prime Minister seeking Talabira coal block for Hindalco saying that similar letters were written for other PSUs too.
The chief minister has always been even-handed in these matters,BJD MP Pinaki Mishra told reporters at a press conference.
BJDs defence came on a day when a team of CBI officials raided the Bhubaneswar residence of SK Tamotia,the former MD of Hindalco.