New Delhi, June 18 (PTI) India is expected to save around Rs 30,000 crore annually on import bill of thermal coal on account of commercial mining of blocks, Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said on Thursday.
He said the country still imports one-fifth of its annual coal requirements and spends precious foreign exchange on it.
'Once commercial mining picks up, thermal coal being imported is likely to be substituted, saving in potential import bill of around Rs 30,000 crore per annum or nearly USD 5 billion per year,' the minister said at the launch event of blocks for commercial mining here.
Joshi said the opening of the coal sector to private companies is expected to generate employment for more than three lakh people.
Since these coal mines are situated in the backward regions of the country, commercial coal mining is expected to contribute about Rs 20,000 crore annually to these states as revenue and strengthen the development of local economies, he said.
Commercial coal mining is a step towards an open market and a more liberalised regime with greater freedom to the investors to tap the market opportunity, he said.
The minister also emphasised that the welfare provisions for coal workers in the commercial mines will be at par with what Coal India (CIL) provides.
'Let there be no worry that there will be different yardsticks for private and public mining,' he stressed.
Of the 41 blocks put on sale, 34 are fully explored, four are partly explored and three are regionally explored.
Eleven of these mines are in Madhya Pradesh, followed by nine each in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand and three in Maharashtra.
The mines includes, Bander (Maharashtra), Brahmadiha (Jharkhand), Chendipada (Odisha), Fatehpur East (Chhattisgarh), Gotitoria East (Madhya Pradhesh).
All types of coal blocks are available for bidding as there are 37 non-coking, two coking and two combo mines i.e. coking plus non-coking, the coal ministry said.
Similarly, choice of all categories of mines are available to opt from the basket of 26 opencast, seven underground and eight underground-cum-opencast mines, it added.
Mines with varied sizes of coal reserves have been put for auction with 31 mines having up to 500 million tonnes (MT), four mines over 500 MT to up to 1,000 MT, three mines over 1,000 MT to 1,500 MT and remaining three mines having over 1,500 MT to 2,000 MT geological coal reserves.
The coal ministry said that 27 mines have peak rated capacity up to five million tonnes per annum (MTPA), nine over five MTPA up to 10 MTPA and remaining five mines having more than 10 MTPA capacity.
Joshi also emphasised on the massive capital expenditure and employment plan for coal bearing regions.
'We propose to invest in forward and backward linkages for a vibrant coal economy,' he added.
To prepare the coal sector for efficient transition and orderly development, the Ministry of Coal has taken a decision to create administrative coal regulator by vesting the coal controller with certain regulatory functions.
This will help boost the investor confidence, he said.
The government, he said, has also set up a Project Management Unit to help the coal block allocatees to obtain approvals and permissions required from various levels of Centre expeditiously.
'From being a sector grappling with corruption and scandals, to being this new-age black diamond that will fuel country’s economic growth - Indian coal sector has truly come a long way,' he said.
The government, he said, has also taken concrete steps for coal bed methane (CBM) exploration and extraction for the first time in coal-fields of CIL.
Incentive to coal gasification and liquefaction is expected to give boost and promote the practice of efficient use of clean energy, he said adding that 'We have received overseas and local interest in such proposals.' Besides, the coal stock at thermal power plants in the country has risen to its highest-ever level of over 50 million tonnes, sufficient for 30 days, he added. PTI SID NAM MKJ