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NTPC shifts plant to help coal hunt

Calcutta, Feb. 12: NTPC will shift its proposed 1980mw thermal power plant in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district because the site is over a huge coal reserve.

The project land in the North Karanpura area sits over six billion tonnes of coal, which make up 9 per cent of the country’s total reserves. The coal will now be available for excavation.

At an inter-ministerial meeting between the departments of coal and power, with representations from NTPC and Coal India, it was decided that the project would be shifted from the original location to a suitable non-coal bearing area.

A ministry source said the Central Mine Planning & Design Institute has already identified five such locations that are free of coal deposits; after an examination, NTPC would select the site.

The Rs 8,000-crore project spread over 2500 acres was planned nine years ago but is yet to take off.

The first blow to the 3x660-mw supercritical power plant came when the erstwhile state of Bihar got divided into Bihar and Jharkhand. In 2007, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation declined to extend the Rs 1,500-crore debt it had earlier committed.

Finally, Coal India objected to the project because it would block the excavation of six billion tonnes of reserves underneath the project site.

The North Karanpura coalfield is spread over 1,230 square kilometres and has proven reserves of 14 billion tonnes.

Yesterday’s meeting also decided that NTPC and CIL would form a joint venture to mine the coal made available after relocating the project.

According to sources, a second inter-ministerial meeting will be held within a month to take this proposal forward.

Bengal effect

The coal ministry will not allow industrial projects on coal-bearing areas in Raniganj in Bengal, a ministry official said.

The Bengal government had already earmarked land for three steel plants to be set up by Bhushan Steel, the Videocon group and the Abhijeet group, besides the Videocon group’s 1600mw power project, in the Asansol-Durgapur region that partly coincides with Coal India subsidiary Eastern Coalfields’ licensed area. The total investments for these three steel projects are estimated at Rs 49,000 crore.

The coal ministry’s move assumes significance as it has decided to henceforth auction coal blocks for captive use.

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