The government will begin acquiring nearly 14,000 hectares of land bearing coal from December and auction it to prospective bidders by March 2015. This land holds 18 mines, which are among the biggest in the country in terms of area.
These mines are part of the 214 captive blocks cancelled by the Supreme Court in September, holding their allocation illegal and arbitrary. Last week, the government issued an ordinance taking over the land of the cancelled blocks.
In all, 52 mines spread over 48,000 hectares have been identified for auction in the first phase, which is likely to take place by March 2015. Before the mines are auctioned, the land would be made free of all encumbrances.
The 18 biggest mines were earlier held by 10 companies. Spread over 13,560 hectares, they have coal reserves totalling over 146 million tonnes
and can generate nearly 12,000 MW of coal-fired electricity each year.
The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014, gives the government overriding powers to acquire land of the de-allocated coal blocks and hand them over to successful bidders. Apart from taking over the land of the cancelled blocks, the government is learnt to have asked various state governments to generously provide land from their land banks free of any encumbrances to the successful bidders to enable them to commence construction of their projects expeditiously.
According to information available with the Coal Ministry, the Tata Goup’s steel and power companies top the chart, holding blocks spread over altogether 3,755 hectares among the 18 mines, followed by Hindalco with 2,914 hectares, Jindal Steel and Power with 1,795 hectares, Adani Power with 1,750 hectares, and Essar Power with 1,356 hectares.
The companies which have lost their blocks were asked by the ministry on Friday to furnish details of their land and the evacuation infrastructure built by them by November 10, so that compensation can be realised against their investment from the successful bidders.
Firms which have lost captive blocks and are willing to sell their end-use plants are also free to do so provided the successful bidders are ready to take these over at a mutually agreed price. The ordinance allows losers of the blocks to rent out mining equipment and machinery to the winning bidders as well.
Moreover, the ordinance does not bar companies which have lost their captive blocks to bid for the impending bidding unless they have been convicted of irregularities in the erstwhile coal block allocation process, and they can now secure land hassle-free once they win the bid after paying an additional levy.
An official said that the government will acquire land of the coal blocks under relevant provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Any surplus land aligned with the cancelled blocks is also likely to be acquired to enhance their operational efficacy.
18 biggest mines on the block
Land to be acquired: Nearly 14,000 hectares
With Tata Group: 3,755 hectares
With Hindalco: 2,914 hectares
With Jindal Steel and Power: 1,795 hectares
With Adani Power: 1,750 hectares
With Essar Power: 1,356 hectares