The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Control over coal to stay

Calcutta, Sept. 26: Coal minister Karia Munda has ruled out any immediate possibility of privatising the coal sector by bringing the Coal Mines Nationalisation (Amendment) Bill to Parliament.

Talking to The Telegraph, he said the government will not bring the bill in Parliament during the winter session.

“This is an issue which needs to be deliberated upon at length in Parliament before being passed. May be the next government will have time to look into the issue and take a firm decision,” he said.

Munda has, however, felt the need for a change in the existing legislation in order to increase production.

“We will have to increase coal production to meet the country’s demand. For this, we need to bring in a legislation that will pave the way for fresh investments in the industry,” he said.

The demand for coal is likely to increase to 460 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) by the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan and 620 million tonnes by the 11th Five-Year Plan, he added.

“Presently the country’s coal production capacity is much less compared with the demand. The responsibility of bridging the gap between the demand and availability solely lies on the coal industry. For this, there is a need for large investment, which will have to be made available by the combined effort of the nationalised coal companies and private investors,” Munda said.

He said that more coal blocks would be given to private sector companies for captive mining. But the companies, which will be offered the coal blocks, will have to start work on them in a stipulated time.

Asked if the government would take away coal blocks from those companies that did not undertake any work even after acquiring the blocks long back, he said that clarifications were being sought from them regarding the progress of work.

Munda was here today to address the International Conference on Emerging Challenges in Mining Industry, organised by Mining Geological and Metallurgical Institute of India.

In a major shift from the earlier stance, the minister has advocated the need for more underground mining in order to have better quality coal without having much impact on the environment.

Criticising the policy of open cast mining, he said, there is a need for balanced mining.

“There’s been a lopsided mining development of late and more focus had been laid on open cast. But we feel that underground mining should be given a thrust,” he said.

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