After 204 coal blocks were de-allocated by the Supreme Court in September 2014, the Union Coal Ministry quickly allocated 33 coal blocks — which were ready to produce coal immediately — within next six months so that there is no coal shortage in country. However, as on October 24 this year, only 12 out of these 33 mines have started producing coal.
The Coal Ministry estimated that aforementioned 33 coal mines would become operational by July 1, 2015.
However, only 16 out of 33 have been given mine opening permissions as on October 24 this year, the ministry said in its internal note to the committee of secretaries (COS), which has been formed to deal with various coal sector issues. Out of 16, only 12 are producing coal, the note stated. Aforementioned 33 coal mines were termed as “Schedule II mines” under Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, which was passed to introduce a new coal allocation regime — which included the auction process — post Supreme Court judgement. Currently, 17 “Schedule II mines” have been deemed as non-operational, according to note. The coal ministry expected other 12 “Schedule III mines” to be operational in 2018-19. Out of these 12 mines, only one mine has started producing coal, according to the note. It means that 11 “Schedule III mines” as well as 17 “Schedule II mines” have not become operational as yet, according to the note.
The note stated that these mines have not become operational because either they are stuck at some stage of clearance – such as stage I forest clearance, stage II forest clearance, ground water clearance, explosive license, permission of Directorate General Of Mines Safety (DGMS), consent to establish, consent to operate etc – or they are facing issues such as court cases or lack of clarity on the forest land area or power line issues or land acquisition issues. Currently, the shortfall in coal production as well as transportation issues has affected coal stocks in power plants across the country. According to the data of CEA (Central Electricity Authority), the number of non-pithead plants that have either “critical” or “super-critical” stock of coal rose from 16 to 25 between June 27 and November 14, respectively. Non-pithead plants are the ones that are not located near the coal mines.
Currently, to resolve the issues ailing the aforementioned non-operational mines, coal secretary holds various meeting with the chief secretaries of the host states and other concerned officers and successful allottees to expedite the development of coal mines. According to the note, a monitoring committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of the coal secretary to “review operationalisation of coal mines”.
This committee as Environment Secretary, chief secretaries of the host states, coal controller and chairman and managing director of Central Mine Planning and Design Institute as its members.
Moreover, a Joint Secretary in the Coal Ministry has been deemed as “nominated authority” and he holds periodic meeting with successful allottees and the officers of the state government as well as Union environment ministry and other related departments to sort out the issues of “clearances and licenses and permissions”. According to the coal ministry’s note, he has held total 10 review meetings so far.