Government allows private firms to mine coal for commercial use

India is said to have coal reserves of up to 300 billion tonnes

Such opening up of coal mining sector for unhindered exploitation by private and foreign corporate without any restriction on pricing and end-use will definitely pave the way for weakening and privatisation of public sector coal industry, both Coal India and Singareni Collieries Ltd, thereby affecting the coal production for both public and industrial consumption as a whole, it said.

"Opening up of commercial coal mining for the private sector is the most ambitious coal sector reform since the nationalisation of this sector in 1973", a cabinet note said. While Coal Secretary Sushil Kumar said government aims to maximise efficiency and increasing revenue is not the objective of allowing the entry of private miners. Private coal producers will thus have to sell predominantly to power producers, many of whom are not exactly in the pink of health financially.

The government was left with little option but to make enabling provisions in the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 for allocation of mines by way of auction and allotment to state-owned companies for the sale of coal.

Ramanandan said Citu was not a signatory to lift the five-day strike of January 2015 but other unions were convinced after the government assured no harm for Coal India against government's decision to amend the Act to pave the way to private commercial mining. The decision was taken by the the Cabinet Co-mmittee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) under the chairmanship of PM Narendra Modi.

The methodology okayed on February 20 gives highest priority to transparency, ease of doing business and ensures that natural resources are used for national development, the statement said.

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"The auction will be an ascending forward auction whereby the bid parameter will be the price offer in Rs/tonne which will be paid to the State Government on the actual production of coal".

In terms of perspective planning for the 2018/19 financial year, total dry fuel demand for thermal power plants has been pegged at 603-million tons, of which 513-million tons was expected to come from Coal India Limited (CIL), with the balance from Singareni Collieries Company and captive blocks operated by power companies. The move will also create direct and indirect employment.

But if things go as anticipated, power producers may not have to shell out more for better fuel as incoming competition will force CIL to improve the quality of coal it ships through the year.

The trade union leaders apprehend that the move will gradually kill Coal India as private players will not do mining ethically. It noted Delhi had also identified big coal blocks with 40 million tonnes to 50 million tonnes reserve for bidding.

It was notified as an Act on March 30, 2015. Global mining giants like BHP, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Glencore have been long expressing interest in prospecting coal in India.

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