Recently, the government issued letters de-allocating coal blocks of various companies, based on the recommendations of the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG). This post discusses the history behind the de-allocations, the parameters the IMG used while examining the progress of various coal blocks and the action that has been taken by the government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) released a performance audit report on 'Allocation of Coal Blocks and Augmentation of Coal Production' on August 17, 2012. Some of the key findings of the Report were:
- The government failed to conduct competitive bids for the allocation of coal blocks. This resulted in a benefit of Rs 1.86 lakh crore (approx.) to private allottees. The government could have tapped some of this financial benefit by expediting the decision on competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks.
- The implementation schedule of a number of coal blocks has been delayed by one to ten years. This schedule relates to the time frame within which the Mining Plan for the block has to be approved, various clearances have to be submitted, land acquired, etc.
- From 2005, the Ministry of Coal (MoC) required the allottees to provide bank guarantees which would be encashed if they failed to meet the above mentioned milestones. The CAG observed that there was a delay in introducing the bank guarantee and linking it with milestones.
The IMG on Coal was constituted for the periodic review of the development of coal blocks and end use plants. The IMG had requested a status paper from the Coal Controller, MoC. This has been submitted to the IMG but is not available. The IMG will decide if private allottees have made substantial progress based on certain parameters. The parameters used by IMG are: approval of Mining Plan, status of environment and forest clearance, grant of mining lease and progress made in land acquisition. They are also examining the physical status of End Use Plant (EUP), investment made and the expected date of opening of the mine and commissioning of EUP. The IMG has made the following recommendations:
- The coal blocks of companies that have not made substantial progress should be de-allocated. Additionally, they have recommended the deduction of bank guarantee in the cases where the private companies have not reached the milestones as per the time line decided upon. As of November 22, 2012, the IMG has recommended the de-allocation of the coal blocks listed in Table 1 and the deduction of bank guarantees for the coal blocks in Table 2.
- Since, the system of bank guarantee was only introduced in March 2005, not all coal blocks had submitted a bank guarantee. Where a bank guarantee has not been provided but there is substantial progress in meeting the milestones, the IMG may require the allottee to submit a bank guarantee.
For a detailed summary of the CAG Report, click here.