Centre to amend mining act
The government is planning to amend the existing Mine and
Minerals Act 1957 to bring in more transparency into the process of handing over
coal blocks for development to central and private agencies.
The government proposes to incorporate a mandatory provision in the Act that
would enable handing over of coal block only through competitive bidding route.
The amendment is expected to inject transparency in placement of awards and do
away with the possibilities of any sort of favoritism that may have been
practiced in award of coal blocks till now.
However, the central government would still have the right to allot the coal
blocks to the central public sector undertakings as per its own decision. Also,
if the company—public or private—has bagged power project on the basis of
tariff-based bidding, it will remain outside the purview of this amendment. The
coal blocks to such projects would be provided on a priority basis.
The government's decision to award the coal blocks for mining to the utilities
has raised questions in the past. A total of 15 coal blocks with reserves worth
around Rs 5.37 trillion were allotted to 31 companies in October 2007. In an
investigation launched to nail down the irregularities in the whole award
process, it had turned out that 9 of the 31 companies were awarded rights
despite being rejected in earlier stages of the bidding process for not meeting
the government's prescribed criteria.
— Mrinalini Prasad
[May 12-18, 2008]