The mines department suspended activities at the Coal India mines for failing to update pollution clearances while a new coal regulatory bill, first-time coal block auctions and a debate over disposal of coal surpluses press on government agendas.
According to the Indian Broadcasting Network, the “mega coal mines” in Orissa’s Talcher coalfields were issued closure orders for not updating their “consent to operate” status with the state pollution control board.
Coal India subsidiary Mahanadi Coalfields Limited said the action was unwarranted and the deputy director of mines in the region had no power to stop coal mine activity, IBN reported.
The news comes as the government confirmed it would continue with the planned auctioning of coal blocks, a policy shift sparked by a leaked audit in March that suggested Coal India lost $US206 billion by allocating coal blocks instead of auctioning them off.
New Delhi Television quoted minister of state for coal Pratik Patil when he answered questions in parliament about the upcoming auction.
“Yes, sir. Fifty-four coal blocks with total geological reserves of about 18.22 billion tonnes are identified for allocation,” he said.
Indian media also speculated yesterday on the newly signed coal regulatory bill and government talks on the disposal of surplus coal.
“I have already signed [the bill] and it has been sent to the Cabinet [for approval],” coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said on NDTV’s website.
The bill is intended to ensure transparency in the allocation of coal blocks and to expedite the resolution of pricing disputes.
Consultations concerning the disposal of surplus coal from state-licenced “captive” mines are expected to clash the interests of the coal ministry and the power ministry, according to The Times of India.
The Times noted that while the coal ministry is against excess production, the power ministry has recommended encouraging surplus production among miners.