West Bengal Power Development Corporation ( WBPDCL ) on Thursday received the Calcutta high court’s permission to appoint mining development operators (MDOs) for three coal blocks it had bagged following reallocation of coal mines in February last year through Coal Mines Special Provisions Act 2015. This will translate into a windfall for the ailing state exchequer which will reap benefit through cess and royalty on coal once MDOs start mining in these blocks worth over Rs 35,000 crore.
Following the high court order on Thursday, WBPDCL has decided to go ahead with the appointment of an MDO and issued a work order relating to Bengal’s two largest coal blocks — Pachwara North and Borjora North. A consortium of NCC Ltd and BGR Infrastructure has been selected as MDO for Panchwara North while Monte Carlo Ltd was selected as MDO of Borjora North.
BGR Infra is based in Hyderabad while NCC is a Rajasthan-based company. Monte Carlo is based in Ahmedabad. The third block — Trans-Damodar — is already with DPL and following the HC nod on Thursday for the two bigger blocks, the power ulility is going to shortlist an MDO. West Bengal Mineral Trading and Development Corporation (WBMTDC) was the nodal agency for the appointment of MDO through a global tender. The auction process for these blocks was conducted by PwC and KPMG.
The legal battle had started in 2015-end when Emta Coal Ltd had moved a petition in the high court challenging the tender process issued by the state power utility in 2015. Emta group argued that it has been controlling those two coal blocks for many years. State advocate general Jayanta Mitra and Debanjan Mandal, counsel for WBPDCL, opposed the petition stating that as apex per court order, the allotment was cancelled and by virtue of the Central government’s 2015 Act, the Centre allotted the blocks to the state, so it was state’s function to issue tender process.
A division bench of Justice Nishtha Mhatre and Justice Rakesh Tewari while allowing appeals filed by WBPDCL vacated the interim order passed by single judge restraining WBPDCL not to pass work order. WBPDCL had initiated a tender process for the two coal blocks for appointment of MDO in 2015.
The Supreme Court had cancelled allocation of 214 coal blocks in September 2014 in a landmark judgment. All the coal blocks with WBPDCL, DPL and other state corporations were cancelled following the verdict. The state power utilities appointed MDOs for Borjora North, Panchwara North and Trans Damodar.
Experts feel that revenue implication for state for Panchwara (North) alone could be over Rs 1,000 crore per year considering royalty and cess element. For Panchwara, the mining target would be close to 15 MT per year.