| NEW DELHI, June 20
NEW DELHI, June 20 India's coal and power
minister said he will seek environment ministry approval next
week to raise output from coal mines as an interim step to
augment supply for power generation, a focus area for new Prime
Minister Narendra Modi.
Coal India, which accounts for 80 percent of the
country's output of 562.6 million tonnes, has failed to meet its
output target and made India a big importer, partly due to
delays in securing environmental clearances.
"We've taken certain decisions in terms of requesting the
environment ministry to allow additional mining for the coal
mines which are already operational," Power and Coal Minister
Piyush Goyal said.
He was speaking with reporters after meeting with
billionaire Anil Ambani of Reliance Power Ltd, Naveen
Jidal of Jindal Steel and Power, Gautam Adani of Adani
Power and executives of other power producers such as
"We hope that a good amount of additional coal can be mined
at least as an interim measure for a few years till we are able
to sort out the problem which the sector has faced over the last
five to six years," Goyal said.
India has the fifth largest coal reserves but is the third
largest importer because of issues in raising output from
existing mines, connecting remote mines with railway lines and
inefficiency at heavily unionised Coal India.
The result is that many power companies, mainly in the
private sector, are either forced to rely on expensive imports
or cut generation. Blackouts are also common.
But Modi, whose landslide election victory last month came
mainly on his promise to rejuvenate the ailing economy, wants to
provide round-the-clock power supply to the population of about
1.2 billion. Millions still go without power.
Coal being the main source of power generation, Modi wants
to reform the nationalised coal sector by bringing in private
investment and possibly breaking up Coal India.
Goyal and Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda met last
week and agreed to speed up work on three railway lines key to
transporting 100 million tonnes a per year from remote mines.
Coal India says better connections could push its annual
output up by up to 300 million tonnes from 462 million now.
Without a rapid rise in output, India's coal supply shortfall is
forecast to more than double to 350 million tonnes by 2016-17.
Goyal said he would also request Coal India allow
third-party inspection of coal before loading to ensure
uniformity of quality.
State-run power producer NTPC has long complained
that it is forced to accept coal heavily adulterated with rocks
(Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes; editing by Jason Neely)