The environment ministry’s latest relaxation of green norms for expansion of projects in the mining sector is set to lead to an annual rise of 45 million tonnes (mt) in Coal India Ltd’s (CIL) production.
In a notification issued last month, the ministry had exempted all mining projects seeking capacity expansion of up to 25 per cent from local public hearings. The move is aimed at reducing delays in green clearances.
“The exemption will benefit us significantly. We will start producing 45 mt of additional incremental coal annually, beginning this financial year,” CIL Chairman S Narsing Rao told Business Standard. “Overall, 16 of our expansion projects that were held up, owing to environmental clearances, will be cleared now,” he added. The 16 projects produce 115 mt of coal. The company’s applications for renewing the environmental clearances for these projects and raise production to 160 mt are pending. “After the new norm, we will still seek environmental clearance for these projects. However, these would not go to the state, something that leads to delays,” Rao said.
India produces 530 mt of coal a year. About 82 per cent of this is accounted for by CIL. The production is much lower than demand, which leads to imports. Coal imports are expected to rise from 90 mt to about 200 mt by 2017, leading to an estimated foreign exchange outgo of Rs 72,000 crore.
The B K Chaturvedi committee, set up last year, had recommended exempting mining projects that sought 25 per cent expansion from public hearings. The panel was mandated to propose steps to fast-track implementation of major infrastructure and mining projects. Sources said recently, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had taken up these recommendations.
Delayed clearances, coupled with capacity constraints, were cited as major factors behind the fall in CIL’s production growth last year. Owing to the fall, the PMO had issued a diktat to the company to meet its fuel supply commitments to power companies. CIL production target for this financial year stands at 464 mt.