India to auction 54 coal mines

Only three days after India’s auction for the 2G telecom spectrum ended in a fiasco with no bids, the South East Asian country is now talking about selling 54 coal mines.

But this time, reports Business Line, the government seems to have learned its lesson as it seems it will only auction the country’s coal mines after environment and forest clearances are obtained.

There is an emerging consensus among industry experts that the culprit for the telecommunications auction's failure, which fetched the government $1.72 billion against an estimated $7.26 billion, was the unrealistically high price fixed by the Indian government.

They expect that outcome will now force authorities to be realistic about selling off the nation’s national resources, so that maximization of revenue doesn't become the main and only focus.

“The 54 coal blocks to be put for auction would not be attached with environmental clearances from the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoEF). With such clearances uncertain, it becomes difficult for an investor to value the asset and the government to set a reserve price,” told to NDTV an official in the Coal Ministry.

“The Coal Ministry is exploring the option of whether the blocks could be given a conditional clearance from MoEF before putting the reserves on the block. However, the process would take time and further delay allocation of the coal blocks to user industries,” the official added.

From the time India started producing coal commercially, the industry has been dictated by the needs of the domestic consumption. India has abundant domestic reserves of coal, most of which are placed in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

Indira Gandhi’s government nationalized coal mines containing both coking and non-coking coals in 1973.

The coal sector 'opened' up again for business in 1993, by 1996, coal mining even by cement firms was allowed. A total of 155 coal blocks were reportedly allotted to nearly 100 public and private companies.

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