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Ministry begins drill for global hunt
Bagrodia in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Fotocorp)

Mumbai, May 21: The coal ministry has formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) comprising Coal India Limited, NMDC, Steel Authority of India (SAIL), NTPC and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited to acquire coking coal mines abroad.

Santosh Bagrodia, the Union minister of state for power, today said officials from Coal India as well as the coal ministry had visited Mozambique and Swaziland to “explore opportunities”. “If we find the right opportunity, we will fund it from our own reserves,” he said.

Officials said talks had also been initiated with the Indonesian government for leasing mines there. A final decision from Jakarta was awaited.

Coking coal is an important ingredient to make steel and Indian companies have been sourcing it mainly through imports from Indonesia. However, coking coal prices have gone up several times in the last one year.

India imported 22 million tonnes of coking coal out of the total 42 million tonnes coal imported last year. Bagrodia said his ministry would augment supply by tripling the e-auction sale to 15 million tonnes from 5 million tonnes, beginning this month.

“We don’t intend to revise coal prices this year. In fact, we hope that augmentation of supply will bring down prices. Now, where is the question of shortage?” he asked.

Cement companies that purchase coal through e-auctions will now find it easier to maintain prices, he hoped.

The coal ministry has revised the earlier target of producing 405 million tonnes to 425 million tonnes under the Eleventh Plan.

Bagrodia rebutted allegations by the power ministry that the coal ministry was not supplying sufficient coal to the power plants.

“We are not short of coal. If power plants are facing a crunch, it is because they are not maintaining the 21-day mandatory stock level, he said.

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