Centre to ease approval process for mining leases

Mining law to be amended

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Centre is planning to scrap the need for State governments to take an approval from the Centre prior to granting a mining lease to companies, Union Coal Secretary Sumanta Chaudhuri said.

Kicking off a stakeholder consultation process on coal sector issues, he said this would be among the government’s initiatives to speed up operationalisation of coal mines.

Mr. Chaudhuri said that this single move, to be effected through an amendment in Parliament, will reduce the entire process by around a year.

Currently, before granting a mining lease, the State Governments are required to put the proposed project, through a process called ‘prior approval’ under which it had to file an application with the Centre seeking its nod for a project for which clearances had been already granted.

Mr. Chaudhuri  added that the state-level clearances are necessary but this (prior approval) amounts to duplication and time wastage although since 2014, about 80 allocations were auctioned or nominated for coal mining. Though the conversion to production has not been great yet there was need to find ways to correct it.

Former Coal India Ltd. chairman P. S. Bhattacharyya said as steps are taken for import-substitution and correction of structural issues in power sector, the coal sector needs to gear up for meeting an additional demand of 400—425 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) beyond the usual growth, including commissioning of power capacities in the pipeline, that can be met by securing incremental coal production of 40 — 50 MTPA between CIL and SCCL.

Mr. Chaudhuri said that among the several measures being taken to hasten coal projects in the pipeline was allowing the sale of 25% of coal in case of allocation of specified end-use plants.

Ashish Upadhyaya Joint Secretary, Union Coal Ministry, said this would boost the profitability of the firms implementing the projects.

The Centre is pursuing a carrot-and-stick policy by promoting ease-of-doing business on the one-hand and strict implementation of existing rules, on the other.

Mr. Chaudhuri noted that there was reluctance on the part of the allottees to go the extra mile to operationalise mines as they continue to have coal linkages.

The Centre plans to auction within this year 46 coal blocks with a total annual capacity of 100 million tonnes. Hoping to attract more players and operationalise the existing mines, the Coal Ministry is promoting ease-of-doing-business while also holding a series of such meetings in coal-bearing States starting with West Bengal.

Source: The Hindu