In a significant softening of stance over the 'go' and 'no-go' mining policy, the environment ministry has agreed to discuss coal projects on a case-by-case basis. The move indicates some headway towards resolving the deadlock since February.
Talking to reporters after a GoM meeting, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said, "There were issues raised by the Chaturvedi committee, which have almost been resolved."
Asked whether any decision was taken with regard to eight specific coal blocks, stuck due to the environment ministry's strict guidelines, Jaiswal said, "We have not reached that stage (of specifics)."
These blocks were given to Reliance Power, Adani, Hindalco and Essar, among others.
While the environment ministry had put 203 coal blocks in 'no-go' mining areas, the coal ministry had argued potential coal production to the tune of approximately 660 million tonnes (MT) was affected by the tough classification.
Officials present at the GoM meeting quoted environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan as saying she would discuss the coal projects on a case-by-case basis, where mining activity had reached a certain threshold.
However, the ministry has decided to keep certain areas out of bounds for mining, which will be termed "inviolate areas".
According to the officials, Natarajan's view was endorsed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who heads the GoM.
The GoM was constituted in February this year at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into issues related to coal projects.
The GoM was trying to resolve differences between the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) on the one hand and ministries of coal, steel and power on the other.
The GoM is yet to evolve a consensus over the classification of coal mining areas into 'go' and 'no-go' zones.
Besides this, it was also decided a high-level committee would be set up to resolve the tussle between Maharatna power generator NTPC and Coal India over relocation of the Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) North Karanpura Super Thermal Power Project in Jharkhand.
The committee will be headed by Chaturvedi.
NTPC is setting up the 2,000 Mw Karanpura plant with three units of 660 Mw capacities each at Chhatra district in Jharkhand.
The coal ministry has been objecting to the proposal, arguing the project would sterilise more than six billion tonnes of reserves beneath the project site.