Private sector will now be eligible to take mined out or de-coaled land on lease from Coal India to develop coal and energy-related infrastructure. Over 3,200 hectares of such lands are available as on date. 

These are lands acquired under Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition & Development) Act, 1957, popularly known as CBA Act for coal mining activities by Coal India and its subsidiaries. However, these are either mined out or are practically unsuitable for coal mining, prone to unauthorised encroachment, and entail avoidable expenditure on security and maintenance. 

On April 13, the Union Cabinet approved a policy for use of such land in the development and setting up of infrastructure relating to coal and energy. 

Opening of many possibilities

“Central and State PSU were earlier permitted, now private sector too can take the land on lease,” a senior government official told BusinessLine. Further, he made it clear that this is not a real estate decision that aims to free huge areas of land.

Explaining the possible uses, he said that there are power plants next to a coal mine. “If a private power plant wanted to set up a conveyer belt to bring down the transportation cost of coal, it was not allowed to lay a conveyer belt there as it was a private entity, but now it will be possible,” he said.

We can also barter land with a job. Also, we were not able to lease out such lands to the State government for afforestation because of legal issues, but now its possible. The private sector can set up washery there which was not possible till date, the official added. 

The government company which owns the land would lease such land for a specific period given under the policy and the entities for leasing will be selected through a transparent, fair, and competitive bid process and mechanism in order to achieve optimal value.

The lands will be considered for the activities such as setting up coal washeries/conveyor systems, establishing coal handling plants, constructing railway sidings, rehabilitation and resettlement of project affected families due to acquisition of land under the CBA Act or other land acquisition law.

The land can also be considered for setting up thermal and renewable power projects or setting up, providing for coal development-related infrastructure including compensatory afforestation, providing Right of Way, setting up coal gasification and coal to chemical plants or setting up, providing for energy-related infrastructure. 

‘No residential colonies’

“These lands will not be used for developing a residential colony or industrial complex,” the official quoted above said. He summarised the new policy through which energy-related infrastructure and assets can now be created on coal-bearing lands that are no longer useful for a joint venture or the private sector. 

The government says the unlocking of such non-minable land for other purposes will also help Coal India in reducing its cost of operations as it will be able to set up coal-related infrastructure and other projects such as solar plants on its land by adopting different business models in partnership with the private sector. It will make coal gasification projects viable as coal need not be transported to distant places. 

The proposal to utilise land for rehabilitation purposes would ensure proper utilisation of land and would eliminate wastage of all-important land resources, avoid acquisition of a fresh chunk of land for rehabilitation of Project Affected Families, eliminate loading of an additional financial burden on the projects, and increase profit, it added. 

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