‘Declare coal an essential commodity’

A parliamentary committee has asked the government to include coal in the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to control its pilferage while asking the ministry of coal to prepare a comprehensive document having details of human lives lost, environmental degradation and resultant loss to the exchequer due to illegal mining.
Coal was removed from the ECA earlier through an amendment. Now, the committee wants Centre to control its production, supply and distribution to stop illegal mining and pilferage.

A study carried out by the Jharkhand government with the help of Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, estimated loss to coal companies to the tune of Rs. 106 crore annually and to the exchequer of about Rs. 34 crore a year.

In a report given to Parliament, the parliamentary standing committee on coal and steel has said a joint inter-state intelligence and action force should be constituted to combat the problem of illegal mining. A task force in each state under the supervision of the deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of the concerned area has also been mooted.

Ban on mining in Ktaka to stay till govt action

The Environment ministry has said that moratorium on mining in Karnataka will not be lifted until the state government provides a report on the cases booked against violators and the action taken on the adverse Lokayukta report.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in its January 18 meeting had allowed JSW Steel Limited, Bangalore to divert 200.73 hectaresof forest land for extraction of iron ore and manganese in Kumaraswamy range, Sandur taluk of Bellary district.Stage-I clearance was given in 2008. Ministry sources, however, said the permission will not become effective till the prescribed conditions are met.
In a letter to Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said that in the backdrop of reports of illegal mining in Bellary district, the state government will have to establish a foolproof mechanism to control violations in a time-bound manner.

The state government will have to submit a list of cases booked against violators and action taken against them and submission of an action taken report on the Lokayukta report. The ministry said the ban on giving new mining leases in Bellary will continue till these steps are taken.

India’s coking coal may go up 22 pct next fiscal

India’s coking coal requirements could increase by nearly 22% to 85.34 million tonnes in the next fiscal, according to Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal.
Coking coal requirement for steel production is expected to be 85.34 million tonnes in 2011-12, as steel production is dependent on coking coal, said the Minister.
The domestic steel industry is expected to use about 70 million tonnes of coking coal in the current financial year ending Mar 31. The country is likely to produce about 65 million tonnes of steel in the current financial year.

India meets about 70% if its coking coal needs through imports from countries including Australia, Indonesia and the US.

The Minister said that thermal coal requirements for power utilities, too, would grow at 10% during the next financial year.

Coal demand from the domestic cement industry also looks bright and it is expected that coal need would rise steadily during 2011-12, he said.

GAIL: Regulator’s zonal gas pricing not sensible

GAIL India, the government-owned gas transportation and distribution company, has suggested the present zonal rate structure for gas is a flawed policy. It has, instead, suggested a ‘postalised' rate, meaning a single transmission rate along a network, needed, it says, for equitable distribution and supply.

CMD BC Tripathi told media that the existing zonal rate structure ordered by the Petroleum & Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) does not provide a level playing field. States situated nearer to the gas fields, such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra get it cheaper; landlocked places such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have to pay more.

“The structure creates a disparity. The incremental zonal tariffs (rates) and higher upgradation tariffs would have adverse implications for all consumers located far away from supply source(s) and/or who would be contracting new/incremental gas supplies. This poses a major challenge to the policy objective of ensuring availability in all parts of the country and to achieve equitable growth of the sector,” Tripathi said.

Presently, rates rise incrementally after every 300 km. So, all consumers located beyond 300 km of the point of injection of gas into a pipeline system would pay more vis-a-vis competitors located within 300 km of the entry point. Hence, this would incentivise future market developments nearer to the gas sources.
By PNGRB's recent decision, while the weighted average rate of the existing Hazira-Vijaipur-Jagdishpur (HVJ) line would be Rs. 25.46 per million British thermal units (mBtu) (Rs. 942/1,000 standard cubic metres), the weighted average rate of its upgradation would 210 per cent higher, at Rs. 53.65 per mBtu (Rs. 1,986/1,000 scm) This higher by 210%. The lower pipeline rate would be applicable only to existing consumers, (with vintage/depreciated plants along the pipeline), while the much higher pipeline rate of Rs. 53.65 per mBtu would be applicable to all new consumers in the pipeline corridor. In other words, customers located in the same zone and procuring gas from the same sources may be paying two different rates, depending on whether they were 'existing' customers or ‘new' customers of the pipeline system, the official said.

Rs. 253.06 crore for R&D in Renewable Energy Sector

A budgetary provision of Rs. 253.06 crore has been made for research and development in new and renewable energy for the first four years of the 11th Five Year Plan of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Against this provision an expenditure of Rs. 199.74 crore has been incurred on R&D in renewable energy sector during the last three years and the current year (upto February, 2011).

The 11th Plan has a special emphasis on efficiency improvement and cost reduction of new and renewable energy systems and devices. The Government has launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) with the objective to create conditions through rapid scale-up of capacity and technological innovation to drive down costs towards grid parity.

With the current level of fiscal and financial incentives the other renewable power sectors such as wind, small hydro, biomass cogeneration/ combustion and biogas based power have nearly achieved grid parity. However, R&D and technology demonstration projects are promoted to make it still better, specially for low capacity systems.

CBI raids in Dhanbad

A joint team of the CBI and the vigilance wing of Coal India recently raided several places in Dhanbad following allegations of the misuse of coal linkage certificates by industrialists.

Earlier, the CBI had received complaints about some industrialists from Govindpur and Rajganj selling linkage licences issued by Coal India Limited.
Agency sources said raids were conducted on the residential and business premises of two industrialists at Govindpur, Chanchani Colony and Rajganj in Dhandad. There were also reports about CBI searching the office of a senior sales manager of Bharat Coking Coal Limited.

CIL and its subsidiaries issue coal linkage certificates to private and public sector companies at a low price for their own consumption setting a condition of not selling the facility to outsiders. But the recipients sell the licence to others making a huge profit on it.

Cos asked to check rising number of accidents in mines

Concerned over increasing number of accidents and deaths in mines, the Coal Ministry has asked companies, including Coal India, to take all steps to contain such fatalities.

“Coal Minister expressed grave concern over the rising trend of accidents and fatalities in coal mines. He stated that management of coal companies must take all the measures to contain such accidents,” a ministry statement quoting Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, said. The issue came up for discussion in a meeting of Standing Committee on Safety in coal mines held recently.

The minister also asked Coal India to inform the panel about the status of safety in the coal reserves of the public sector firm.

During the meeting, Coal India while referring to the rising accidents said that different steps including, training of drivers and setting up of simulators, were been taken to lessen accidents. Last year, 262 cases of serious accidents were reported in Coal India. In 2009, the number was 248 and in 2008 there were 356 cases of serious accidents. In Coal India, the number of serious injuries during 2008 was 363 followed by 252 in 2009 and 280 in 2010.

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