Govt mulls single-window system to boost steel, mining; no BCCL, Coal India split

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 25 2014, 19:33pm hrs
SteelCurrently, 44 coal projects, both opencast and underground, and at least six steel projects are awaiting environmental and forest clearances. Reuters
To boost sagging sentiments in steel and mining sectors, the government on Tuesday began the process of setting up single-window mechanism to fast-track clearances for various projects and create special mining zones to ensure raw material security for existing and upcoming steel plants in the country.

In the course of a three-hour-long meeting steel and mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar, coal minister Piyush Goyal and environment minister Prakash Javadekar said that there is a pressing need for a single-window clearance system and agreed to engage more stakeholders to take the process forward.

While there was a general agreement that such a system cannot happen overnight as rules for different departments are not the same, but creating such a dispensation also cannot be an endless process.

Currently, 44 coal projects, both opencast and underground, and at least six steel projects are awaiting environmental and forest clearances.

Considering that over Rs 4.4 lakh crore of investments are in the pipeline in the steel sector in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, such a mechanism is likely to translate these investments on the ground. In response to the contention of steel ministry officials that the existing plants perpetually complain about raw material insecurity, Goyal told the meeting that some blocks can be auctioned specifically for the steel companies, while steel PSUs can continue to enjoy allocations through the government dispensation route.

Steel ministry officials had, in a presentation to Tomar last month, contended that the sector has been discriminated in allocation of captive coal mines despite the companies completing their end-use plants and investing heavily in mining. They told the minister that 44 captive coal blocks pertaining to steel and iron projects have been canceled notwithstanding their investments made.

The three ministers said that like the special economic zones, certain big mineral bearing areas can be demarcated as special mining zones exclusively for meeting the demands of the iron-ore starved plants, a source said. The erstwhile UPA government had set a target of producing 300 million tonnes steel per year by 2025 for which the nation would require nearly 350 MT of iron ore.

However, the steel ministry officials could not confirm whether such mining zones would be entitled to financial sops as enjoyed by the SEZs. Javadekar said that National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) will be reconstituted soon and matters pending for clearance of the NBWL will be thereafter be disposed off expeditiously.

Goyal, meanwhile, is learnt to have been firm in ruling out de-merger of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) from Coal India and making it a stand-alone company, as demanded by the steel ministry last year.

The 12th Five Year Plan working group had suggested de-merging BCCL from Coal India to service the raw material needs of the steel companies steel industry which spends heavily in sourcing the fuel from abroad.

Goyal, who also holds the charge of power ministry, is learnt to have told the meeting that since Coal India is a listed entity, it would be imprudent to distribute its assets.