Protest over coal de-allocation

Shillong, Dec 8 : A furious power-starved Meghalaya will protest against the decision to de-allocate a coal block in Odisha, as the hilly state had already set the ball rolling for tapping thermal energy from the black diamond.

Recently, the Union coal ministry had intimated its decision to de-allocate the Mandakini-B coal block, which was uniformly apportioned to four states, five years ago.

The ministry had intimated its decision through a December 5 letter addressed to four public sector units — Assam Mineral Development Corporation, Odisha Mining Corporation, Meghalaya Mineral Development Corporation and Tamil Nadu Electricity Board.

The coal block was allocated on July 25, 2007, and the decision to de-allocate the same was based on the recommendation of an inter-ministerial group (IMG).

“We are planning to protest against this decision,” an official in the state mining and geology department said here today.

Five years ago, the Union coal ministry had allocated 1,200 million tonnes of coal within the Mandakini-B coal block to Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Meghalaya.

The coal block was then equally divided among the four states — 300 million tonnes each.

In October, the Mukul Sangma cabinet decided to develop a 1,320MW thermal power project, of 660MW each, from the 300 million tonnes of coal on a joint venture basis with an eligible private partner.

The project was supposed to be on a build, own and transfer (BOT) basis.

The state power department had also floated an “expression of interest” soon after the cabinet decision, but this has also been kept on hold following the December 5 letter, even as the state government will try to resolve the de-allocation issue.

The IMG was formed on June 21, 2012, under the chairmanship of an additional secretary in the Union coal ministry to review the progress of development of the allocated coal blocks and associated end-use projects and to recommended action, including de-allocation in case of delays.

The group had provided an opportunity to the companies to make presentations on October 9 on the progress of development of allocated coal blocks.

However, the IMG, consisting of officials from the Union ministries of power, steel, commerce and others, discovered that detailed exploration in the allocated blocks and detailed investment planning was yet to take shape.

Stating that the development of the coal block was still at the stage of obtaining prospecting licence (PL), the IMG said, “In view of the unsatisfactory progress in the development of coal mine and end-use plants and taking into account all factors, the coal block was de-allocated.”

In the letter, the coal ministry also said 50 per cent of the Rs 48.7-crore bank guarantee related to the development of the coal block, should be invoked and deposited with the government.