The environment ministry has relaxed green norms on an interim basis for two Chhattisgarh coal mines given to Coal India’s custody, in order to ensure production from these blocks.
The mines — Gare Palma IV/2 and IV/3 mines — are under Coal India (CIL) custody as an interim measure after Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) moved the court challenging a government order not to declare it as successful bidder even though it emerged as the highest bidder for the blocks in an auction held in February-March this year.
A Committee of Environment Ministry has given exemption from green clearance conditions with regard to these mines, an official said.
“In order to ensure continuous coal production at the mines as directed by the High Court of Delhi, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) agreed to the interim arrangement,” he said.
The interim arrangement includes that the overburden is to be managed in the same way as stipulated in the EC (Environment Clearance) albeit without fly ash and washery rejects, the official said.
“On the issue of the coal transportation by road, the Committee noted that there would be a major change in air environment due to road transportation…As an interim measure, the road transport of coal can be permitted and the PP (project proponent) has to come back with the rapid environment study on the impact of road transport on the air quality including route and traffic survey within one month,” he said.
The Committee categorically made it clear that the decision is only an interim arrangement till further orders of the High Court.
The Environment Ministry’s EAC in a meeting last month had considered the request of South Eastern Coalfields (SECL), a CIL arm, for exemption from environment clearance conditions granted to JSPL in June 2012 for operating Gare IV/2 and Gare IV/3 mines.
“SECL submitted that the High Court order is specific to operation of this block utilising the requisite manpower of the petitioner (JSPL) to ensure continuity in coal mining operation and production of coal,” the official said.
SECL has also submitted that facilities such as washery, conveyor belt and the power plant does not fall within the custodianship of SECL and therefore some of the conditions stipulated in the EC in this regard cannot be implemented.
“In view of this, SECL …has requested for exemption/modification to the EC conditions for smooth functioning of the mine and to avoid any violation of the conditions stipulated therein,” the official added.
Both the mines which were earlier given to JSPL were deallocated by the Supreme Court last year when it canceled allocations of 204 coal blocks without auctions.
The Coal Ministry directed re-examination of recommendations of Nominated Authority in respect to some of the tenders for auction of coal mines, including Gare IV/2 and Gare IV/3, as the bids in final price offer in these cases were not found to be in line with other cases.
Later, the government did not approve the declaration of preferred bidder as successful bidder in case of mines including Gare IV/2 and Gare IV/3 as final closing bid price was not found to be reflecting fair value.
JSPL moved Delhi High Court against cancellation of bid for both the coal blocks. In March, the court decided to make Coal India Limited(CIL) the custodian of these two coal mines as an interim measure.