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Bid to save coal blocks

Ranchi, Nov. 24: Jharkhand government is planning to oppose an inter-ministerial group’s recommendations to cancel two coal blocks of Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation (JSMDC), which is also under the CBI scanner.

On November 20, the inter-ministerial group on coal recommended de-allocation of two blocks of JSMDC — Rabodh and Patratu — cracking its whip on the state-owned PSU for failing to develop the mines.

“We are going to write to the Union coal ministry requesting the authorities not to take any extreme step, as the state government is keen on developing the blocks in question. We have already selected private companies for joint venture on public-private partnership mode to develop Rabodh, Patratu and another (Pindra-Debipur-Khaowatand) block,” additional chief secretary A.K. Sarkar said.

Initial reports suggested that only one coal block belonging to JSMDC was de-allocated. However, now its seems another one has been added to the list.

Sarkar, who heads the state mines and geology department, said they had not been officially informed about the recommendations, as the Union coal ministry was yet to take a final decision on the matter.

“Nevertheless, we will be sending a letter to the authorities in a day or two so as to pre-empt any move by the ministry to de-allocate the blocks,” he said.

Sources said the state government would approach the Union coal ministry by Monday. Chief minister Arjun Munda, who left for Gujarat today, will return to Ranchi tomorrow evening after formally inaugurating the Jharkhand Pavilion at the India International Trade Fair in Delhi.

Patratu and Rabodh coal blocks in South Karanpura and West Bokaro coalfields respectively were allotted to the state mining entity in 2007. But JSMDC, due to various problems related to lack of manpower and infrastructure, was unable to develop the two mines as well as Pindra-Debipur-Khaowatand that was allotted in 2006.

The PSU was prompted to opt for joint venture to develop the blocks.

During the bidding process, Jindal Steel & Power Limited was shortlisted to develop Patraru that has a deposit of 450 million tonne (MT), while Adhunik Group company Orissa Manganese & Minerals was selected for Rabodh (133MT).

While JSPL quoted a price of Rs 2,160 per tonne of coal, the Orissa Manganese & Minerals pitched for Rs 3,400 per tonne.

Both are opencast mines possessing deposits of high-grade ore.

However, the government’s efforts to develop the mines have been jinxed from the beginning.

In August, Raj Bhavan sent back the proposal to involve private partners, asking the government to get a cabinet nod. The government sent the proposal again after gaining cabinet approval, but the governor rejected it.

On November 20, the government was informed by the CBI that its ongoing probe into coal block allocations extends to all eight coal blocks of JSMDC, including Patratu and Rabodh.


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