Indicating an end to the year-long tussle over the controversial no-go mining issue, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal on Thursday said the problem had been resolved.
The announcement, which came a week before the scheduled meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) specifically set up to suggest a way out of the deadlock, confirms speculations of a softening stance by Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh on the issue.
"There is nothing like go and no-go now. The environment minister has adopted a generous attitude which has made production of more coal possible," the coal minister said after an hour-long meeting with Ramesh.
This was the second meeting between them this week.
During Thursday's meeting, coal ministry officials presented to Jairam a list of around 100 top-priority mining projects where the ministry is pushing for quicker approval for environment clearance.
"After Thursday's meeting, it will be possible to expedite clearance for blocks with reserves of around 25 million tonnes," said an official who attended the meeting.
The two ministers did not share any details. Jaiswal, though added that the two ministers were able to reach a consensus on the future course of policy direction in clearing coal blocks.
"Seventy-five per cent of Coal India's problem has been solved. We have made a consensus to ensure coal production is not impacted. In future, we will decide where mining is to be done on a qualitative and case-to-case basis," he said.
Asked whether he implied that 75 per cent of Coal India's blocks held up in no-go areas would be freed, Jaiswal said, "We expect 75 per cent of Coal India's problem has been solved. Both of us realise that power requirement is increasing in line with the country's coal requirement."
Jaiswal also said the environment ministry had agreed to review its decision in coal mining projects which had a low Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI).
The environment ministry had last year imposed a temporary moratorium on development projects in 43 clusters labelled "critically polluted", as they had a CEPI score of more than 70.
Seven coalfields - Chandrapur, Korba, Dhanbad, Talcher, Singrauli, Asansol and IB Valley - are falling under the CEPI moratorium.
The environment ministry had last year barred coal blocks falling in heavily forested regions called No-Go areas from mining. Investments worth Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) are currently stuck in no-go areas.