Centre offers 67 mines in second coal auction

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 25, 2021

The Ministry of Coal on Thursday put on sale as many as 67 coal blocks under the second tranche of commercial mining auctions since the parliament allowed the entry of private firms in the industry in March last year.

Out of the total 67 mines offered, 37 have been fully explored, while the rest have been partially explored. “The coal mines on offer are a mix of mines with small and large reserves, coking and non-coking mines and fully and partially explored mines spread across six states: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh,” the ministry said in a statement.

This round will kick off the “rolling auction” regime, under which bids for coal blocks can be received anytime, Minister of Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi told industry executives at the auction launch event. “Coal mines will be up on offer on our website. Whenever you show interest, we will go for auction,” he said.

“Even if only one person shows interest, we will go for auction. If only one person participated, then we will put the same block up for auction for a second time, and if the second time too no one else makes a bid, then we will allot the mines to that single bidder,” he added.

Earlier, in case of a single bid for a block, the ministry had formulated an Empowered Committee of Secretaries from across central government departments to decide whether or not to allocate the block.

“Coal blocks will now always be available on our website for bidding,” said Coal Secretary Anil Kumar Jain. “Among the 67 blocks that we have offered this time, those which do not get picked up will remain on our website, and maybe we will determine a date every two months when the bids will be received.”

“The new blocks of which the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute completes the exploration and offers to us will get added to the list. We will not need to do bidding rounds,” he added

“With this round, commercial coal block auction will come to have become a permanent feature in the country,” Jain said. “Coal will be the first natural resource which will always be available to anybody wishing to set up coal-based activity.”

Last year, in the first tranche of auctions under the new regime, the ministry had put up 38 blocks on offer, out of which 19 blocks were auctioned successfully.

“Today, the coal and mining sectors contribute 1.25 per cent to India’s GDP,” Joshi said. “By 2024-25, we want to raise it to 2.5 per cent.”

This period is also likely to be the final hour of coal auctions, Jain added.

“Considering the minimum gestation period to get the coal out and make it economically viable, you need at least a working span of about 15-20 years. With the increasing press of clean energy, we are sitting at the right time. I think it is only the next 2-3 years that virgin coal blocks may go in for mining. Thereafter you may not be left with sufficient time,” the secretary said.

Published on March 25, 2021

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