The Centre is working on a mechanism that will augment coal mining without damaging the environment, says Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

While the Coal Ministry wants to increase coal production, the Ministry of Environment is concerned about destruction of forest wealth. This has led the two ministries to come together and work on a mechanism where natural resources can be extracted with minimal damage to the environment.

“Yes, we have coal deposits in all kinds of forests … there is no restriction in undertaking mining activities, but we have reservations on open cast mining…We have to ensure that newer mining activities are undertaken in such a way that there is minimal damage to the environment. One such option is underground mining,” said Javadekar.

Speaking to BusinessLine , he said: “Wherever there is coal available in degraded forests it can be exploited first, then in medium forests. And, of course, underground can be any time.”

“If underground mining is encouraged jungles will be saved wherever possible. The Coal Ministry has ambitious targets, but it has to ensure the environment is protected using better technologies,” he stressed.

Ambitious target The government has set a coal production target of 1.6 billion tonnes by 2019-20. Of this, one billion tonnes will come from Coal India and the rest from captive and private producers.

In fact, the ministries involved in mining activities have been having constant interactions; the government is keen to come out with the mechanism at the earliest, Javadekar said.

Meanwhile, the Coal Ministry has been pitching for adoption of a cluster approach for environment clearances to augment domestic production.

Delayed environment and forest clearances have been cited as the prime reasons by the Ministry for the falling domestic output.

In its presentation made to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Coal Ministry had suggested identification of inviolate areas and eco-sensitive zones for future planning of coal mining.

Besides environment and forest clearances, the Ministry has also blamed the slow land acquisition process for falling output.

Law and order issues and pending court cases against captive coal blocks have also been cited as the reasons for domestic coal production slowing down.