Environmental clearances for five major coal projects of Coal India that supply to NTPC’s three major plants — Vindyachal, Rihand and Singrauli — have been postponed. The Planning Commission has advised the coal ministry not to rush to the Union Cabinet for clearing the moratorium on mining from the projects.
At stake is about 8 million tonnes of output from the Northern Coalfields, a subsidiary of CIL in the Singrauli belt at the border of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
The coal ministry had approached the Cabinet Committee on Investment on December 27 to lift the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) imposed on mining from the coalfields (comprising Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh and Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh ) from September 17, 2013.
“The ministry has told the CCI that at least five big coal projects are stuck for want of green clearances. “These projects can enhance production immediately if they are exempted from CEPI moratorium,” the ministry has noted in its Cabinet note.
However, the Planning Commission has restrained the coal ministry from approaching the CCI for lifting of moratorium under CEPI for Singrauli coalfields saying it should instead wait for the verdict of the National Green Trbunal on the subject.
A petition has been filed in the tribunal opposing grant of sanction of any new mining or power project in the polluted areas of Singrauli and Chandrapur (Maharashtra).
“Although the NGT may take some time to dispose off the case but (the coal ministry may wait for the outcome of the petition in the tribunal before placing the matter before the CCI,” the plan panel said in its reply.
The commission also asked the ministry to take the central pollution control board (CPCB) on board and include its views in the cabinet note before moving to the CCI. “It is also not clear whether the studies to ascertain the pollution score in coal mining areas were done in consultation with the CPCB, which is the nodal agency to monitor the CEPI,” the plan panel reasoned.
All the five coal projects belong to the Northern Coalfields Ltd, a CIL subsidiary, but any impact on Moher and Moher Amlohri coal blocks of Reliance Power in the vicinity was not immediately known. NCL would be hit hard due to denial of mining from Nigahi as the mine contains good quality fuel and has a high offtake.
Coal from this mine is supplied to NTPC Limited’s 3,260 MW Vindhyachal thermal power plant. The company’s Singrauli and Rihand super thermal power stations, having capacity of 2,000 MW each can also get impacted as they are dependent on fuel from Singrauli.
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