Mining has begun in 30 coal blocks: Govt

Mining has begun in 30 coal blocks: Govt

Chidambaram rules out scrapping allocation

Mining has begun in 30 coal blocks: Govt

The Centre on Monday disclosed that coal production had started in 30 of the 142 allocated blocks even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected all three of the Opposition demands, including scrapping of 142 coal blocks.

Batting for his government that is facing charges of scam in coal block disbursal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said while 17 blocks were likely to begin production in the “very near future, there has been unsatisfactory production” in 32 coal blocks.

The coal ministry has already issued “show-cause” notice to companies which bagged licence for 58 of the blocks for not starting production. Chidambaram said that 58 of the coal blocks allocated since 1993 were in “no-go” areas or wildlife corridor areas.

The minister said because of such reasons, all the 142 blocks cannot be clubbed together.

“The 32 blocks (where production is unsatisfactory) have been cautioned by the ministry.

But opportunity will be given to these companies to present their side before deciding whether the allocations be cancelled or not….The demand for cancellation of all 142 coal blocks allocated after 2004 is not founded on sound logic. If any cancellation has to be done, it has to be done through a fair process and cannot be done through dictate or arbitrary orders,” Chidambaram added.

Chidambaram’s statement was the first from the government, claiming that production has started in as many as 30 blocks.

The prime minister, refusing to buckle under pressure from the Opposition, rejected all three of their demands. He is understood to have told some of his senior ministerial colleagues that he would fight it out in Parliament and outside.

While the BJP has demanded Singh’s resignation and cancellation of 142 blocks, the Samajwadi Party, Left parties and the TDP have demanded that a judicial commission be set up to probe the allocations.

 Informed sources said Singh was aware that capitulation to any of the three demands would mean that he would be admitting to irregularities in the allotment.

 On Monday, an inter-ministerial panel on review of progress in production in the allocated mines decided to give hearing to companies where mining is yet to begin.

The Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) has decided to ask firms like Jindal Steel and Power, Tata Steel, Essar Power, ArcelorMittal, Sterlite Energy and Reliance Power to explain the delay in developing 58 coal blocks alloted to them.

On September 6, 7 and 8, the IMG is likely to hear for the final time the companies that were allotted the 58 blocks since 1998, before deciding on further course of action for unsatisfactory work.

An official release issued after the nearly four-hour meeting of the IMG, said: "The latest progress (on development of coal blocks) as reported by the Coal Controller will also be taken into account before recommending on the action against the coal block allocatees."
The IMG has firmed up the guidelines for proportionate deduction of bank guarantees for failure to achieve milestones for development of the blocks.

Reliance Power on Monday stated that it had started production in two coal blocks - Moher and Moher-Amlohri -that  were allocated in 2007 for its 4,000-MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) in Madhya Pradesh.

Coalgate file

* 17 coal blocks likely to start production in near future.

* Production is unsatisfactory in 32 coal blocks.

* Firms such as Jindal Steel and Power, Tata Steel, Essar Power, Arcelor-Mittal, Sterlite Energy and Reliance Power will be asked by Inter-Ministerial Group to explain the delay in developing 58 coal blocks alloted to them.

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