The government is re-examining the bids for nine coal blocks, including those where Jindal Steel and Balco emerged the top bidders, and a final decision on their fate would be taken by this weekend — amid speculation of cartelisation during their bidding process.
The options that could be explored for these mines, after ‘re-examination’ of the bids, would include a fresh auction for those mines, allotting them to the state or giving those blocks to state-run Coal India, Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said.
“By this week-end there would be a decision on the nine coal blocks which are being re-examined by the government,” Swarup told PTI.
Asked if there is a possibility that government can go for re-auctioning of these blocks, Swarup said: “Anything can happen.”
There are variety of options which the government is exploring. “The government can re auction the mines, it can allot the mines to the state and it can give the blocks to Coal India,” he said.
Allotment of the 43 coal blocks to government companies would also be done by the end of this week, he added.
Expecting the details would emerge in “a couple of days” on what actually transpired during the bidding process for the 9 mines, Swarup insisted that the government wasn’t looking at cartelisation aspect at the moment.
There have been reports that some bidders could have indulged in cartelisation to keep the prices low for the concerned mines.
“In the schedule II, we were looking at four mines and in schedule III we are looking at five mines…Prima facie we found that it requires a re-examination, so it has been re-examined that is about all,” Swarup told news channel CNBC TV18.
He, however, reiterated that the government was only re-examining and not reviewing, “because there was no decision taken. Review happens when you take a decision”.
The bids of four coal blocks of the schedule II mines (ready to produce) which are being re-examined are Gare Palma IV 2, Gare Palma IV 3, Gare Palma IV-1 and Marki Mangli III.
Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) was the successful bidder for Gare Palma IV 2 and Gare Palma IV 3 mines, while Balco successfully bid Gare Palma IV/1 mine and BS Ispat bagged Marki Mangli III mine.
According to a JSPL spokesperson, “The company has not received any communication from the government with regard to the re-examination of Gare Palma IV/2 & IV/3 or Tara coal blocks which have been won by its subsidiary Jindal Power Limited (JPL).”
The coal blocks which do not figure in the list of successful bidders of schedule III mines are Brinda and Sasai mine (one bid was invited for both the mines), Meral mine, Dumri mine, Tara mine and Mandla South mine.
Asked why re-examination was required, the coal secretary said: “On the face of it, we felt that the bids that were offered were not at the same levels as similar blocks in the same group. However, that was not a decision per se. That was first impression and that needed to be examined and that is why it has been examined.”
On whether the government has noticed any evidence of cartelisation, Swarup said: “As I said, this is a process underway. I would not like to comment on what is going on the file. A decision will be taken in couple of days and you will get to know what has happened.”
While insisting that the government “has not looked at any such thing as cartelisation or anything of such sort”, he said: “I have used the word ‘outliers’. There is a pattern and if somebody falls outside that pattern that needs a examination.
“Whether it is a cartelisation or not it not something which I can say as of now. We are certainly not examining these aspects. We are examining if there is an outlier the reason for it and then we will take a call.”
So far, a total of 33 coal blocks have been auctioned in two tranches. While in the first lot 19 coal mines were auctioned, in the second lot 14 coal blocks went under the hammer.