India’s top court cancels over 200 coal licences

India’s top court cancels over 200 coal licences

India's Supreme Court has cancelled 214 of the 218 government permits for coal mines allocated since 1993 after the licensing process was deemed illegal, in a move that adds uncertainty beyond the struggling sector to the heart of Asia's third-largest economy.

"The court has cancelled all the allocations except four," Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi told reporters on Wednesday outside the court, Business Standard reports.

Last month the same court ruled the country's decades-old method of granting coal mining concessions was illegal and arbitrary, putting investments worth billions of dollars at risk.

The court decision took effect immediately for the 172 mines that weren't in production. It also ignored requests from the federal government to exempt about 40 coal blocks that had either started production or were near it.

The ruling sent shares of Jindal Steel and Power Limited, Hindalco Industries Limited and Tata Power Co Limited sharply lower.

The firms have already spent heavily on steel and power plants based around the coal blocks.

As companies have waited to learn the fate of the coal-mining rights, India has faced an acute shortage of coal, which fuels about three-fifths of its power needs.

The country is the world's third-largest producer of coal, behind China and the U.S. Yet it relies heavily on imports because of mismanagement and an onerous bureaucracy in coal exploration, production and power generation. As a result, nearly a quarter of India's 1.2 billion people have no electricity, according to the World Bank.