Coal blocks auction likely in Dec-Jan, says official

New Delhi, Sept.6 (ANI): Coal Secretary S.K. Srivastava today said that the auction of explored coal blocks is likely to be undertaken in December 2013 or by January 2014.

Speaking at a CII conference on Mining Leaders' Roundtable here, he said that a 'letter of comfort' from the Ministry of Environment and Forests would be given to the successful bidder.

Srivastava told CII that there would also be an exit route after a period of two years if the requisite clearances fail to materialize without any penalty. There have been discussions on lump sum payment or revenue based models and a framework for the same would be intimated shortly, he added.

Coal India Chairman S. Narsing Rao said that the PSU was all set to meet the deadline for signing fuel supply agreements (FSAs) and already it had entered into fuel supply pacts with about 140 power plant. Coal india has to sign 173 FSAs for a capacity of 78,000 MW. There were issues with only 4-5 FSAs (of which three were with WCL), regarding the cost plus clause and land acquisition, said Rao. Coal Secretary S.K. Srivastava confirmed that 143 of the 173 FSAs had been signed so far.

To supplement the efforts of Coal India to augment output, Mr Srivastava also informed that a pilot project was being undertaken by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, to draft the modalities of bidding documents for selection of mine-developers and operator (MDO) for certain Coal India mines. CIL has already allocated one block for the pilot.

Relatively new in India, MDO is a concept where in a coal block owner contracts entire operations to a third party, which takes the responsibility of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, mining, developing and operating the particular mine by investing in it and then supplying the coal at a tender determined price to the power plants of the mine owning state electricity boards.

Srivastava also outlined the details of the Jharia Action Plan, formulated to control the raging underground fires. Two independent assessments - one by CMPDIL and the other by NGRI - on the extent of fire and other related issues were expected in three months. The BCCL will also soon seek Expression of Interest (EOI) on other technology available globally to tackle the fire.

Sustainability of mining operations was a key point of discussion at the CII Roundtable. Mr Rao highlighted the need for post-project monitoring and raising of standards overall. "We need to substantially improve EMP in the interest of the country and in the interest of the sustainability of the project," he said. Mr Arun Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Mines, asked the industry leaders to adopt a more proactive approach to corporate social responsibility.

The shortage of skilled manpower despite attractive emoluments was also hindering the growth of the mining sector. Mr Nik Senapati, Co-Chairman, CII National Committee on Mining, informed that the CII is working closely with the industry to set up Mining Sector Skills Council under the National Skills Development Council.

In addition, the CII Roundtable identified key areas needing improvements/revamp, the need for scientific mining, global best practices and looked at options available to accelerate investments and enhance the image of the mining sector in India. (ANI)

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