Govt chalks out plan for exploration of 37 coal blocks by 2017

The government today said it has chalked out a plan for the exploration of 37 coal blocks by 2017, including three forest covered mines, to be put on offer for competitive bidding.

"A programme for exploration of 37 coal blocks included in the total 42 blocks has been drawn for exploration during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17)," Minister of State for Coal Pratik Prakashbapu Patil told the Lok Sabha in written reply to a query on the blocks to be offered through competitive bidding.

He said the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has granted permission for exploration in "three forest covered blocks" on trial basis to study the impact of such exploration on the flora and fauna on account of enhanced bore hole density.

These blocks are - Bijul in Singrauli Coalfields, Madhya Pradesh, Chirra North in Mand-Raigarh Coalfields, Chhattisgarh and Baitharani East in Talcher Coalfields, Orissa.

The Minister said a meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) was held in MoEF last year wherein the findings of joint impact assessment of all the three blocks were presented and FAC was briefed about the necessity of revisiting existing guidelines.

"However, FAC did not consider it necessary to revisit the guidelines and decided to take expeditious decision on case to case basis for all the proposals pending for forest clearance as well as future proposals," he added.

The government last year had identified 54 mines for allocation. Of these, 17 had been earmarked for government firms, 16 for power sector and the rest for allocation through auction route.

An inter-ministerial panel is likely to meet on March 22 to deliberate on allocation of blocks to PSU firms.

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