IMG skirts decision on coal blocks cancellation



New Delhi: Meeting in the midst of a raging controversy, an inter-ministerial panel on coal blocks on Monday skirted a decision on cancelling allotments of 58 mines and instead decided to give the allottees a personal hearing.

Firms including Jindal Steel & Power, Tata Steel, Essar Power, ArcelorMittal, Sterlite Energy and Reliance Power will be asked to present before the IMG on September 6, 7 and 8 to explain the reasons for missing their production deadlines.

"The latest progress (on development of coal blocks) as reported by the Coal Controller will also be taken into account before recommending on the action against the coal block allocatees," an official statement issued after three and half hour long meeting of the IMG, said.

The IMG has firmed up the guidelines for proportionate deduction of bank guarantees for failure to achieve milestones for development of the blocks.

The panel would present its recommendations on the action to be taken in these 58 coal blocks to the coal secretary by September 10, sources privy to the meeting said, adding the panel did not discuss penal action like cancellation in respect of the 58 blocks under review.

The ministry is likely to announce outcome of the IMG deliberations by September 15.

Apart from the 58 blocks where unsatisfactory work had prompted the Coal Ministry to issue show-cause notices to the allottees, another 32 blocks would be reviewed subsequently.

Of the 58 blocks under review, 30 blocks were allocated to public sector firms and the rest 28 to private companies. The blocks given to private firms are estimated to hold 1,718 million tonnes of extractable coal reserves.

The IMG, headed by Zohra Chatterji, Additional Secretary, Coal, was set up in July to recommend action against the coal block allottess for not meeting time-lines set for beginning production.

The controversy over coal block allocation refuses to die down after the government auditor CAG estimated undue benefits to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to private firms on account of allocation of mines without auction.

PTI