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India to set up ‘sustainable development cell’ for coal projects

19th December 2019

By: Ajoy K Das

Creamer Media Correspondent

     

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KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – The Indian government will set up a ‘sustainable development cell’ to ensure environmentally sustainable coal mining across the country.

According to a statement issued by the Coal Ministry, the cell will advise on planning, monitoring and mitigation measures taken by all coal mining companies to minimise the environmental impact of mining and also develop a policy framework of environmentally compatible mine closure plan.

The call on setting up a dedicated cell comes close on heels of Coal Minister, Prahlad Joshi, earlier month stating that India will continue to look at increasing coal production to meet energy demand and opening up of coal mining sector for private miners, including 100% foreign direct investment (FDI), which would seen increase in number of coal mining companies and projects across the country.

The sustainable development cell would comprise experts and organisations to advise and plan on issues of afforestation, air water and noise pollution control, mining water management and lay down standardized templates for the coal mining industry, the Ministry statement said.

The move comes close on heels of national auditors, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), censuring State-run miner, Coal India Limited (CIL) for environmental indiscipline and violations of air pollution controlling measures, waste water management and illegal use of groundwater and land management practices, as reported earlier by Mining Weekly Online.

Ministry officials said that CAG report had also pointed out the low deployment of specialised human resources in ensuring sustainable mining practices and environment management by CIL and that the proposed cell would provide dedicated manpower and expertise to support miners which were failing to allocate necessary management support to sustainable mining.

The cell would specifically undertake GIS mapping and data analysis to help miners comply with their environmental responsibilities and identify areas to be focused factoring in regional geographic requirements and focus on improving carbon sinks for better climate change impact of mining operations, the officials said.

The setting up of the cell assumes significance because despite the optimism over renewable energy and aggressive implementation of solar and wind energy projects, three fourths of the country’s present energy demand was met through thermal power and this ratio is unlikely to see dramatic change in the long term either, the officials observed.

Hence, the Coal Ministry’s new directive for all coal miners to deposit $8 450/ha of land mined to be deposited with the Coal Controller’s office in an escrow account to maintain accountability of mine operators.

The government reckons that while state-run miners might not face difficulties in meeting financial liabilities stemming from implementing mine closure plans, but there were risks of mines operated by private companies or mine developer operators, which might face financial challenges and close down mines violating approved mine closure plans and the proposed cell would be technically equipped to monitor such risks, the officials added.

Edited by Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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