Centre asks state govt to process coal block applications

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Jan 16:

Even as the Ministry of Coal (MoC) is in the process of cancelling licenses of 41 coal blocks for failing to get mandatory clearance to develop the coal blocks, the Ministry has asked the Odisha government to process all pending mineral concession applications for allocated coal blocks.

The Central directive has come as a huge relief to the state government which had halted the process of granting licenses for fear of getting dragged into the ongoing CBI probe.coal block

“The state government may take all steps for executing the mining leases, making it clear in the order that this would be subject to final orders to be passed by the Supreme Court and without prejudice to the investigation or registration of cases by the CBI,” Vivek Bharadwaj, joint secretary of MoC said in a letter to Odisha chief secretary J K Mohapatra.

“It is clear that amendment to MMDR Act, 1957 was not given retrospective effect and the state government may continue to process the cases of allocation made prior to 13 February 2012 in the light of then prevailing legal provisions,” said Bharadwaj.

It is to be noted that the chief secretary had sought the opinion of the Ministry whether to continue the process of granting mineral concession to the allocated coal blocks or not, throwing the ball into the Centre’s court as the coal block scam is being investigated by CBI.

In a move to play safe and stay out of the investigation process, the state government had halted the processing the application process to avoid any litigations arising out of this.

Mohapatra, on October 23 last year, had sought clarification from MoC if the state government could process the pending coal block applications in view of the ongoing probe by the CBI and the matter being sub-judice.

The halting of the process has affected a number of companies including Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL), National Aluminium Company (Nalco), Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Ltd (IMFA) and Monnet Ispat & Energy, which have been allocated coal blocks and facing the threat of cancellation for not developing the blocks within the stiplulated time.

The Coal ministry had allocated 37 blocks in Odisha for captive utilisation between 1993 and 2013. Of this, only the Talabira-I coal block allocated to Aditya Birla Group-owned Hindalco Industries has gone into production.

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