The 26th meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Group held on February 25th under the chairmanship of Additional Secretary (Coal) undertook the review of captive coal blocks that were allocated to private companies for specified end-use based on the recommendation of the screening committee but had not commenced production with forest clearance stage II yet to be obtained. The review was carried out in the context of the statement that had been made in the Supreme Court by the Attorney General with regard to review and de-allocation of such coal blocks.

In January this year, the Ministry of Coal began the review process, based on certain set criteria, for 61 captive coal blocks that were allocated to private companies for specified end-use on the recommendation of the screening committee but failed to commence production. Those allocated the coal blocks were issued notices seeking explanation for the delay in development and also asked to submit all relevant documents concerning statutory clearances.

In the 24th meeting of the IMG held on February 7th and 8th, a total of 31 coal blocks were recommended for de-allocation following the review. The 26th meeting of the IMG reviewed 10 coal blocks out of the remaining 30 coal blocks. The 10 coal blocks had obtained environmental clearance and forest clearance stage I by February 5th, 2014, the cut-off date prescribed in the criteria set for carrying out the review process.

The notice sent to the 10 coal blocks on January 15th stated that in cases where forest clearance stage II had not been obtained, the review of coal blocks would be carried out and a decision taken within six weeks taking into consideration guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and after assessing whether such clearance was expected within a reasonable period of time. It added the blocks would be de-allocated if ascertained that the clearance was not expected within reasonable time. The MoEF would be requested to take an appropriate decision within four weeks in such cases, the notice said. Those allocated the coal blocks were asked to furnish the relevant documents by February 12th.

Review of the 10 coal blocks revealed that in case of two coal blocks, Mahan coal block allocated to Essar Power Limited and Hindalco Industries Limited and Durgapur II/Sarya coal block allocated to D.B. Power Limited, forest clearance stage II had already been accorded on February 12th and February 21st respectively. For the remaining eight coal blocks, the report on satisfactory compliance to conditions stipulated in the stage I forest clearance is awaited. The eight coal blocks include Moitra coal block allocated to Jayaswal Neco Limited, Ganeshpur coal block allocated to Tata Steel Limited and Adhunik Thermal Energy Limited, Brinda and Sisai coal blocks allocated to Abhijeet Infrastructure Private Limited, Lohari coal block allocated to Usha Martin Limited, Dumri coal block allocated to Nilanchal Power Limited and Bajrang Ispat Private Limited, Jitpur coal block allocated to Jindal Steel and Power Limited and Rohne coal block allocated to JSW Steel Limited, Bhushan Power and Steel Limited and Jaibalaji Industries Limited.

The representatives of the private companies allocated the eight coal blocks apprised the IMG of the various steps taken so far for obtaining forest clearance stage II and sought six months time. They, however, pointed out that the process could get delayed as the administrative machinery of the state governments would slow down in the coming days due to general elections. After deliberations, the IMG recommended that the eight coal blocks be given time till November 2014 for obtaining forest clearance stage II failing which the blocks should be de-allocated.

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