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In the process of expediting de-allocation of unused coal blocks, the government has taken over a mine in Orissa from a subsidiary of Coal India and handed it to the parent company. The mine is among the 39 coal blocks given to public sector companies for commercial use since 1993.
The mine, Utkal A, was alloted to a consortium of Mahanadi Coal Fields with JSW Steel and Shyam DRI in 2005, and was to be mined by the public sector miner. But a Parliament answer shows that the mine has been taken from the consortium and given back to Coal India.
Government rules for coal exploitation mandates that all unused mines must be returned to the public sector company. The parent company will now hand it back to Mahanadi Coalfields to extract the coal, if possible.
Utkal A is one of three coal blocks that the world's largest public sector coal mining company could not mine even 10 years after it was given the rights.
Madhya Pradesh Mining Corporation Ltd, a state government-owned firm that won the second largest number of blocks among all bidders, private or public, too has not mined any. Abhijeet Industries won the largest number, 8.
Other public sector companies that have won mining rights over the years but kept them unused are NTPC (two blocks), MMTC, Nalco and Sail (one block each).
Incidentally, all of these companies have extensive mining abilities. For NTPC and Sail, who got the projects in 2004 and 2007, land acquisition is pending. Land and forest clearance has been the toughest hurdle to cross for most of the 195 coal blocks allotted by successive governments since 1993.
The government has told Parliament it has de-allocated 25 coal blocks from various private and public sector companies. The blocks have returned to Coal India, but none of them are expected to begin production soon.
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