Coal blocks to be allocated through auction

June 24th, 2009 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 24 (IANS) Coal blocks will be allocated to various sectors through the auction process, Coal Minister Sriparakash Jaiswal said here Wednesday.
“For this, the concerned Act will be amended,” the minister told reporters, and added that the move would ensure transparency and add to the government’s revenues.

Currently, the allocation of coal blocks is decided by the screening committee of the ministry.

Jaiswal said an independent coal regulatory body would be set up, adding that it was part of the ruling United Progressive Alliance’s agenda for the first 100 days.

“The regulator will be institutionalised within that period,” he said at a media briefing.

Two expert committees set up by the government on coal sector reforms have favoured independent regulation of domestic coal prices.

The regulator will deal with pricing, gradation of coal, and improving exploitation and allocation of available resources.

Coal prices are currently determined by the ministry in consultation with Coal India and Singareni Collieries Co.

Jaiswal said 80 percent of the projects taken up by his ministry during the last four-five years have got stuck due to land acquisition problems.

Coal India chairman Partha Bhattacharyya, who was present at the media briefing, said the blocks allocated over this period have reserves of 490 million tonnes, 90 percent of which are untapped due to the land problems.

The minister said there was no plan to merge Coal India subsidiaries with the parent firm.

Releasign a New Coal Distribution Policy (NCDP) is also part of the first 100 days’ agenda of the government.

Jaiswal also met West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and discussed problems of land acquisition and forest and environmental clearances in the state.

“The environment (and forests) ministry has agreed to give environmental clearance within five-six months. The state has also been asked to draw up its own time frame.”

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