Coal exploration: Forest min throws spanner in works
AK Debnath, chairman and managing director, Central Mine & Planning Design Institute (CMPDI), told FE that the Planning Commission has set a target of prospecting 15 lakh metres per annum by the end of the 12th Plan Period ending 2017, against the current annual average of 3 lakh metres. Accelerating such activity would require digging more bore holes — at least 15 for every sq km. But the MoEF is sticking to its benchmark of allowing digging an average 1-1.5 bore holes per sq km, which would make the target impossible.
CMPDI, the Coal India (CIL) subsidiary, made 5 lakh metres of exploration last year by sticking to the MoEF bench mark. “That is the optimum we can achieve by sticking to the MoEF criteria,” an official said.
India has an estimated proven coal reserves of 118 billion tonne, the third-largest in the world, and they are expected to last 100 years. But CMPDI needs to carry out exploration to identify new, mineable reserves, and such reserves have to be identified two Plan Periods ahead.
“MoEF doesn’t allow taking drilling machines into forest areas. So, how do we increase our exploration activities?” Debnath said.
He said CMPDI has been given new 175 blocks to explore, of which 119 blocks belong to CIL and the rest are being offered to private players. But all the blocks under Western Coalfields, Singruali Collieries and North Karanpura Coalfields are in forests and there lie great hurdles in getting access to those blocks.
CMPDI is currently drilling in 45 blocks, but exploration is pending in 38 blocks for want of MoEF clearance. In FY12, the number of blocks in which exploration was pending was 21. This rose to 38 in FY13, Debnath said.
He said the coal ministry has already taken up the issue with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and CMPDI is waiting for the PMO’s action.
The plan panel has already recommended a huge increase in the requirement of funds — R4,507 crore — to carry out exploration activities in the 12th Plan Period and the Centre will have to provide R1,621.21 crore of the total requirement. The government was asked to provide R893.89 crore in the 11th Plan Period, but the coal ministry approved only R523.08 crore.
The Plan panel has recommended CIL to spend R1,680 crore in the 12th Plan period for exploration against R714 crore spent under the 11th Plan. Of the R1,680 crore, the government will have to spend R974.69 crore for exploring non-CIL blocks and R546.62 crore for promotional exploration.
Singerani Collieries has been asked to spend R188.90 crore in the current Plan period against R88 crore spent in the last Plan period.
Neyveli Lignite Corporation, Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation and Rajasthan State Mines & Minerals would together spend R43.07 crore for undertaking exploration activities in the 12th Plan period, a Planning Commission official said.
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