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‘Clean’ coal blocks to get mining approval with rider

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SummaryPermission would be revoked if a legal case is made or a CBI inquiry is launched against the licensee.

The centre plans to give mining approvals for captive coal blocks listed in the coal blocks allotment scandal with the rider that the permission would be revoked if a legal case is made or a CBI inquiry is launched against the licensee.

The coal ministry is seeking the Cabinet Committee on Investment’s consent to “go ahead with captive coal blocks development” and grant statutory Central government approvals to “all allocated coal blocks where no case or FIR has been filed by the CBI”.

It has also sought CCI’s approval to issue a similar advisory to coal-bearing states “to proceed with the grant of various approvals required for coal block development”.

But the proposal sent to the CCI says that the approval would be revoked “if a legal cause of action is brought against the allocatee in the light of legal proceedings including judgment of court or result of lawful investigation”.

The Centre’s move to issue guidelines to states is a departure from its earlier stand in the Supreme Court that it had merely identified suitable blocks. It had put the onus on the states claiming that the allotments were letters of intent while all subsequent decisions were taken by the state governments in executing the lease with a private firm.

The ministry’s push is a last-ditch effort to boost coal output as only 37 of the 178 captive blocks awarded through nomination have started production. The Coal Controller’s Organisation had informed the ministry that a “substantive investment” of Rs 8,771 crore in block development and Rs 2,77,291 crore in building end-use plants were stuck in 157 blocks.

“A large number of coal blocks are not able to come into production as statutory approvals are not being granted both by Central and state governments. On grant of such approvals, it is expected that coal production from such blocks would be a substantial contributor to the national economy and reduce imports. It would also unlock investments already made by allocatees,” says the CCI note.

Orissa and Maharashtra want the Centre to issue clear instructions on allotting mining licences to private firms following the Supreme Court-monitored CBI probe. While Maharashtra has asked for “administrative justification” from the Centre for issuing licenses to blocks awarded under nomination, Orissa said it would not be advisable to proceed further until the settlement of pending litigation or closure of investigation.

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