The government has zeroed in on three options in deciding the fate of five coal blocks which witnessed low-price bids. The options include auctioning them again, give them back to Coal India or giving them to the states.
The five mines — Tara, Brinda and Sasai, Meral, Dumri and Mandla South — which were part of the 13 Schedule-III blocks were auctioned in the second tranche but had witnessed low price bids. While the auction results of eight mines have been made public, the winners of remaining five mines have not been announced by the Nominated Authority (NA).
Talking to The Indian Express, coal secretary Anil Swarup on Tuesday said there are three options before the government. “The first is to auction them again, secondly give the mines back to Coal India as they originally belonged to the company. The third option is give them to the governments of the states where the blocks are located,” he said.
These suggestions are understood to have come from an inter-ministerial committee (IMC), which had submitted its report about ten days ago on the reasons for the low-price bids. The government is likely to announce its decision on these five mines soon. The ministry has finalised its recommendations after perusing the IMC’s report and forwarded them to coal minister Piyush Goyal to take a final call on the issue, it is learnt.
He denied that any decision has been taken on these blocks so far. The electronic auctions have been carried out in “most open and transparent manner” and any chance by any bidder of taking undue advantage is ruled out.
“We are satisfied to have offered a transparent platform for coal blocks auction,” the coal secretary said in reply to another query. The passage of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014 by April 5 would be imperative to commence the next round of coal blocks auction or else re-promulgation of the Ordinance which has already been promulgated twice on October 20 and December 24 last year.
Delving on promoting commercial mining of coal, Swarup said, there is no decision yet in allowing so, which was reflected in the first and second tranches of auctions, wherein only companies with end-use plants were allowed to bid for blocks. However, the ministry has inserted an enabling provision in the coal Ordinance to allow such mining.