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coal: No recipients of commercial, captive mines have returned their blocks: Coal secy

Kolkata, The Ministry of Coal on Monday dismissed reports about the return of commercial and captive mines due to slow progress on clearances, stating that such blocks are progressing according to plans and will start production in due course. There had been reports about some commercial block winners contemplating returning their mines.

“Anyone who got commercial and captive mines has not returned their blocks. It’s worth noting that the process for a mine to become operational typically takes 51 months as per our estimate, as it involves several necessary steps,” Coal Secretary Amrit Lal Meena said on the sidelines of the 10th Asian Mining Congress and IME 2023 here.

The coal ministry, in coordination with the state governments and the union environment ministry, is “actively facilitating clearances for mine auction holders, and the progress is proceeding well,” he said.

The combined output from commercial and captive mines currently accounts for 14 per cent of the country’s total coal production, and the figure is only going to increase this year.

“Of the 152 commercial and captive mines, 51 are already in production. Last year, they produced 116 million tonne of coal, representing approximately 14 per cent of the total production. In the current year, 7-8 additional mines will commence commercial operations, taking the combined output to an estimated 162 million tonne, which will constitute about 15 per cent of the total coal production,” Meena said.

He pointed out that 91 of the 152 blocks are commercial mines and were auctioned in the last three years. However, out of these 91 auctioned commercial mines, only five are currently operational. Meena remained optimistic about the increasing contribution of these mines to the total coal production.

He also mentioned that the next round of coal mine auctions will commence around November 15, with 40 new blocks set to be put up for bidding.

Regarding coal shortages and imports, Meena noted that the country is producing the dry fuel to meet domestic demand.

However, due to a significant rise in demand from the power sector, plants dependent on imported coal, and logistical constraints, the country had to plan for some imports to prevent power outages.

Nonetheless, coal imports have decreased from 26 per cent in 2019-20 to 21 per cent in 2022-23, he said.

The power ministry has permitted coal imports by generation companies (gencos) up to six per cent for blending.

Meena said, “In the current fiscal year, the country is targeting dry fuel production of 1,012 million tonne as compared to 892 million tonne in FY’23. Approximately, 85 per cent of this coal goes to the power sector, with the rest serving others.”

Coal India is also on track to meet its commitment with a target of 780 million tonne in the current fiscal, he added.

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