The States have agreed to implement price-pooling mechanism of coal, the Coal Minister, Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal, told newspersons.

“A major hurdle has been sorted. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has communicated that States have agreed to price-pooling mechanism for coal prices. They do not have any problem,” said Mr Jaiswal.

The CEA discussed the issue with State Electricity Boards early this month. Price pooling between indigenous and imported coal may result in increasing electricity generation cost by 7-8 paise for every unit. The SEBs, which are reeling under severe financial stress, were against any rise in prices because they are not able to pass the burden to end-consumers.

Mr Jaiswal said that price-pooling is a complicated issue and have never been practised in the country. “If it is good for the country, the Ministry will implement this. The mechanism has to be discussed with Ministry of Power,” Mr Jaiswal added.

The Minister said that, if needed, public sector companies such as MMTC and STC will import coal. Till now, no plan has been formulated.

ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE

The Coal Ministry is pushing for "extension of green clearance" for 13-14 coal blocks.

“We have told the Environment Ministry that there is no need for the entire process to take place. These are not new blocks. Mining is already being done to that extent where clearances have been issued. Now, we want to expand them,” said Mr Jaiswal.

These blocks can immediately extract additional coal if these green nods are permitted. The reserve estimates in these mines are not known immediately. The issue is hanging for past three months.

RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE

The Coal Ministry has offered its Railways counterpart to fund for tracks, wagons and rakes that would facilitate evacuation of coal.

“We have offered to the Railways to invest for rakes. We want our coal to be transported. They have not responded yet. The Railways earns 50 per cent of freight income from coal transportation,” added Mr Jaiswal.

The Coal Minister claims that if evacuation problem is sorted, coal output can be ramped up immediately. This year, average rakes used for transporting coal has been increased to 192 against 170 in the previous year.

siddhartha.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 16, 2012)
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