However, sources add that the MoEF has refused to give approval to another 13 mines and has asked CIL to apply for environment clearance afresh.
One official, who did not want to be named and attended the PMO meeting, said that Coal India had requested that for existing projects going in for increase in production, the requirement of fresh environmental clearance should be dispersed with. However, the MoEF official present in the meeting stated that it would not be possible to grant environmental clearance (EC) automatically in such cases. CIL will have to apply for clearance as per the laid down procedure.
Another official told NDTV that MoEF told CIL that as per the procedure, fresh public hearing is required for expansion projects for which the earlier public hearing had taken place before 2006.
One Coal India official in condition of anonymity said that “the board (of CIL) on Tuesday will discuss the issues related to all the blocks which were discussed in the PMO meet and will expedite the process to get clearances”. He added that “all these blocks can give additional 50 MT of thermal coal and that will be supplied to the power producers”.
Meanwhile, after discussion, sources say the PMO convinced the MoEF for conditional approval to 15 projects of Coal India. Biggest of them are Belpahar and Samleswari open cast mines under Mahanadi Coal Ltd (MCL) in Orissa, which at present are producing 4.5 MT and 5 MT, respectively. The MoEF has agreed to give approval to increase the production in Belpahar and Samleswari by 2.5 MT and 8.5 MT, respectively, to 7.5 MT and 13.5 MT. Coal India has been asked to submit for fresh approval by September and MoEF has assured that approvals will be in place by December. Meanwhile, these two mines can increase the production by about 6.5 MT.
Similarly, Lajkura mines again in Orissa can ramp up the production by 2.7 MT (against the present production of 1 MT). CIL has been asked to submit some clarification within one month and MoEF will clear the mines in another three-four months.
Other mines that got conditional approvals are Dipka, Kusmunda and Gevra open cast mines in Chhattisgarh for which the approval is expected in three-four months. The Mohanpur coal project in West Bengal, too, is expected to get MoEF clearance in next two to three months.
Out of 15 mines, four that may get clearances later include Bina and Krishnashila open cast mines in Madhya Pradesh. MoEF has asked CIL to submit the required baseline data to the State Pollution Control Board within one month to facilitate holding of public hearing. CIL was to keep PMO and MoEF informed about any delay in holding the public hearing.
For Ghugus coal project in Maharashtra, MoEF told PMO that Coal India itself is not ready with its application for clearance. And for Junad mines in Maharashtra, MoEF told PMO that two public hearings were held earlier but serious objections were raised. Sources said that clearances of Junad can only be granted after resolving the issues.
Also, in the PMO meeting the issue of Hazaribag-Shivpuri-Tori railway line in Jharkhand was discussed. MoEF has already given stage-1 clearance for the project. MoEF has also eased two conditions permitting setting up stations with but without passenger traffic. MoEF’s second condition was about no movement of trains at night in the said line. CIL have some suggestions regarding night operations, which will be submitted to the Inter-Ministerial Committee headed by Chairman, Railway Board, for consideration.