Over 200 coal mining licences deemed illegal by India’s Supreme Court

Over 200 coal mining licences deemed illegal by India’s Supreme Court

Workers walk on a heap of coal at a stockyard of an underground coal mine in the Mahanadi coal fields in Orissa.

India's Supreme Court ruled Monday that all coal mining licences awarded between 1993 and 2010 are illegal and will now examine whether some or all 218 permits should be revoked.

In the ruling, the high court said that successive governments gave rights to mine coal to state and private companies in a style that was “not fair and transparent” and without competitive bidding.

The court is also expected to rule on possible fines on firms currently holding those permits, most of which have not been developed, as mines in remote rural areas proved too costly to bring into operation.

In the past twenty years India has granted coal blocks to a range of companies in sectors such as power and steelmaking, partly to overcome fuel shortages stemming from its inefficient and state-dominated mining sector.

But in the process of allocating those licences, India has become tangled in accusations of corruption and mishandling.

Coal dependent

India is one of the largest producers of coal in the world and more than half of its commercial energy needs are met by the fossil fuel.

The coal-rich regions include huge swathes of eastern states like Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and pockets in the central and southern parts of the country.

Large areas containing coal are divided into blocks, which can then be leased to mining companies.

According to NDTV, the country’s top court has yet to decide whether the licences should be cancelled and it is expected to do so in a series of hearings starting September 1.

Image from archives.