An inter-ministerial group (IMG) tasked with suggesting punitive measures for holders idling their captive coal blocks is learnt to have recommended cancellation of 30 mines, making it the single biggest de-allocation so far.
Apart from several major firms like Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL), Essar Power, the Tata Group and Reliance Infrastructure, many smaller companies are now understood to be included in the list.
In its two-day meeting that ended on Saturday, the panel considered the status of 61 captive blocks and finally zeroed in on de-allocation of the mines. According to a coal ministry source, the list will be sent to coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal soon for his approval, following which letters informing cancellation will be sent to the block holders. The blocks learnt to have been recommended for cancellation include Gare Palma IV/6 of JSPL, Rampia and Dipside of Rampia blocks in Orissa allocated jointly to Reliance Infrastructure, Lanco, Sterlite Energy, GMR Energy, ArcelorMittal India and Navabharat Power and Essar Power’s Chakla and Ashok Karkatta blocks in Jharkhand.
The panel has also recommended cancellation of Radhikapur East block allocated to a consortium of companies led by Tata Sponge, the Moira Madhujore mine allotted to a consortium of six firms including steel maker Uttam Galva.
The Madanpur North mine belonging to seven firms including Sunflag Iron and Steel would be cancelled and also the Madanpur South Mine held by a consortium of six firms including Hindustan Zinc Limited.
Certain blocks whose fate was not immediately known include Mahan coal block jointly to Aditya Birla group company Hindalco and Essar Power and Tata Steel’s Kotre Basantpur, Pachmo and Ganeshpur blocks. The fate of JSPL’s other blocks – Jitpur and Utkal B1 is also yet to be known.
The details of these 61 blocks were furnished last month to the Supreme Court, which has been highly critical of the entire allocation process executed by the coal ministry through the erstwhile screening committee route. According to coal ministry officials, the companies have furnished whatever documents they had, but those were not enough to escape cancellation in most cases. These blocks were cancelled on account of either environmental clearances not being in place or where the states had not executed the mining leases.
The IMG is learnt to have deliberated at length on the fate of those coal blocks were the state governments have not executed mining leases and concluded that they would have to be considered in the light of the representations made by the respective companies, which have made out a case that they cannot be held responsible for no mining leases as the concerned state should own it up. The coal ministry had to withdraw its recent suggestion to the mineral-rich states that they can execute MLs on those captive mines against which there are no CBI investigation or legal cases after Attorney General G E Vahanvati was told by the Supreme Court that it is against splitting of coal blocks into those against which there is a CBI inquiry and those where no case has been registered.