According to the CAG, the underpriced sale and free allocation of coal blocks for captive mining may have cost the government as much as US$33 bill in lost revenue. At the heart of the debate is the 1993 policy which broke the government’s monopoly as a coal supplier and allowed private companies to mine coal for captive use, in a bid to increase coal production to meet burgeoning demand.
A recent report from India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pertaining to the allocation of coal blocks has created a political storm in India. The report alleges widespread corruption in coal block allocation and is perceived as potentially damaging for the already scam-tainted Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
However, the decision resulted in a number of non-coal consuming industries approaching state governments and signing letters of intent promising to develop coal consuming plants if they were allocated coal mines. Coal blocks were allocated to private companies as well as state mining companies who were ill-equipped to run a power plant as well as a coal mine. Prime Minister Singh was in charge of the Ministry of Coal (MoC) from 2006 to 2009 when some of the controversial allocations took place.
A number of companies developed coal blocks, but the vast majority have been content to sit on the asset and wait until the government opened up the coal market to allow private captive coal miners to sell coal into the domestic market place. Of the 218 coal blocks that have been awarded to date, only 29 are currently in production. Many of these companies blame delays in environmental clearances and land acquisition issues for their inability to commence operations.
Recently, the Ministry of Coal has started de-allocating coal blocks from miners who have not sufficiently developed their assets. As per the latest available data, 24 coal blocks have been de-allocated, including those from private companies including Binani Cement, Bhatia International Ltd and Lloyds Metal & Engineers Ltd. The threat of further de-allocation of mines by the MoC, as political fallout from the ongoing scandal, is expected to induce other mine owners to be more proactive with project development. There are significant financial implications for companies who have secured financing and have begun to develop plants dependent on captive coal blocks. Opposition from the business community is fervent as many coal-consuming plants are ready or partly ready, financing has been secured and industrial equipment has been ordered. If coal blocks are de-allocated, billions of dollars loaned to finance these projects would come under threat.
It is imperative for India to secure energy for its growing economy. It is facing severe shortages of domestic coal supply and ‘Coalgate’ will now join India’s ultra-mega power project (UMPP) policy as a shining example of failed energy policy. Salva does not believe that captive mining will grow to 653 Mt by 2020, as forecast by India’s Planning Commission.
Developments in captive coal production have the ability to widely swing India’s imported coal demand, particularly for thermal coal. The political and commercial implications of India’s ‘Coalgate’ scandal and captive mine development are worth keeping an eye on as India’s Central Bureau of Investigation initiates the due process of law against some of these companies. The repercussions will affect not just India, but possibly world coal markets.
Sourced from : Salva Report