Centre’s latest round of coal block auction throws spotlight on Telangana’s Singareni

Singareni, with a long, 135 year-old history of mining, currently operates 39 coal mines.
Last Updated : 22 June 2024, 00:49 IST

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Hyderabad: With the Centre initiating the 10th round of commercial coal mines auction on Friday, Telangana’s Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL), which provides livelihood to at least 40,000 workers, doesn’t have much reason to cheer.

Singareni, with a long, 135 year-old history of mining, currently operates 39 coal mines. However, without new mine allocations, the existing mines will gradually deplete. According to Telangana’s deputy chief minister, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, in the next five years, eight underground mines and three open-cast mines are expected to close.

By 2032, five more underground mines and six open-cast mines are expected to shut down, followed by another five by 2037-38.

SCCL has requested the Coal Ministry to allocate four crucial coal blocks - Sattupalli Block-3, Koyagudem Block-3, Shravana Palli Block, and PK OC dip side. Surveys have already been completed for these blocks, which are adjacent to old mines with available infrastructure.

Instead of this, a decision was made to auction off these four coal blocks. “This is very disappointing. It is regrettable that our governments are not supporting a public sector company. During the auction, even though Singareni needed to participate to secure the coal blocks, the previous government prevented it from participating.,” Vikramarka added.

Due to the amended MMDR Act in 2015, Singareni lost its lease rights over the Godavari-Pranahita region. Now, instead of having exclusive control, Singareni has to acquire blocks according to the amended MMDR Act through auctions. 

However, according to Section 17A(2) of the Act, the central government can allocate new mines to Singareni through the reservation method, Bhatti Vikramarka said while talking at the launch of the auction on Friday.

Before the amendment to the MMDR Act, Singareni had complete authority over coal reserves in this region. According to the tripartite agreement between the central government, state government, and SCCL, all activities related to coal resource exploration, new mine planning, and the initiation of new mines were done through the company.

It was granted 44 mining leases covering 600 square kilometers in the Godavari-Pranahita valley area, with permission to extract 3,008 million tonnes of coal from 388 square kilometers. However, only half of this, about 1,585 million tonnes have been extracted so far.

“Despite the auctions, the private companies that acquired Sattupalli Block-3 and Koyagudem Block-3 have not yet commenced coal mining. Hence, we request that these allocations be cancelled and the blocks be allocated to SCCL,” the minister added.

10th round auction begins

The Ministry of Coal on Friday, in Hyderabad, launched the 10th tranche of commercial coal mine auctions and a total of 67 coal mines were offered. The 67 coal mines are spread across the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and Telangana and include both fully explored and partially explored and three coking coal mines.

Mines falling under protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries, critical habitats, areas with forest cover greater than 40p%, etc have been excluded. The block boundaries of some of the coal mines, where there was presence of dense habitation, high green cover or critical infrastructure, etc, have been revised to improve the attractiveness of the mines.

Union coal and mines minister G Kishan Reddy emphasized the critical role of coal as the lifeline for all industries and its pivotal contribution in achieving the government’s aim of a $5 trillion economy. The commencement of sale of tender documents have begun. Details of the mines, auction terms, timelines, etc. can be accessed on MSTC auction platform and website of Ministry of Coal. The auction shall be held online through a transparent two stage process, based on percentage revenue share.

Published 22 June 2024, 00:49 IST

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