Spelling trouble for state-owned miner Coal India Ltd (CIL), the environment ministry is not considering lifting a moratorium on two of its major coalfields any time soon.
The ministry's Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) moratorium issued last year had brought expansion of the company's Korba coalfield in Jharkhand and Chandrapur in Maharashtra to a halt. Korba is the largest contributor of CIL's output among its 21 coalfields.
“Lifting the moratorium on the Korba and Chandrapur coalfields may not happen soon,” a senior environment ministry official told Business Standard, arguing the two state governments do not seem to be using effective mechanisms to bring down emission levels in the industrial clusters.Moratorium on five of the seven coalfields initially covered under CEPI were lifted gradually over the past few months. “The moratorium was lifted from the five coalfields after they cut pollution levels by pulling down production. If everybody starts bringing down emission using the established mechanisms, there will be duplication,” the official said.
The ministry had last year rated 88 industrial clusters across the nation based as most-polluted, based on their emission levels. Seven coalfields — Chandrapur, Korba, Dhanbad, Talcher, Singrauli, Asansol and IB Valley — fell under the moratorium, pulling down CIL’s 2012 production target from 486 million tonnes (mt) to 447 mt.
The CEPI issue had resulted in a loss of 18 mt of Coal India’s production last financial year. For the current year, the loss is estimated to be around 39 mt from 17 projects. The company, however, maintains that even if the moratorium is lifted immediately, it would take more than a year to restore production levels. Korba, with reserves in excess of 5.5 billion tonne, alone accounts for a fifth of Coal India’s production of 431 mt annually.The CEPI issue had cropped up during the discussions of a 12-member Group of Ministers on coal last month when Planning Commission member B K Chaturvedi had called for lifting of the moratorium from Korba and Chandrapur by September 30. Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had responded by saying that locals have complained against pollution levels in certain areas rising beyond permissible limits leading to respiratory problems. The ministry would consider “all aspects” before taking a final view, she had said.
Coal India reported a 12.9 per cent jump in net profit at Rs 10,867 c crore last fiscal over a total income of Rs 50,233 crore. The company’s share price at the Bombay Stock Exchange on Friday closed at Rs 377.8, up 0.4 per cent as compared to previous day’s close.