NEW DELHI – India is getting ready to open up commercial coal mining to private companies for the first time in four decades, with the aim of shifting the world’s third-biggest coal importer towards energy self-sufficiency.
Anil Swarup, the country’s top coal bureaucrat, told Reuters on Friday the government has identified mines it plans to auction, and is now finalising other terms such as eligibility criteria for companies to take part and whether and how to set up revenue sharing.
He said a plan should be ready in the 2-3 months, setting a clear timeline on a plan that has previously only been vaguely marked out.
India has an ambitious plan to double its coal production to 1.5 billion tonnes a year by 2020, as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to bring power to 300 million people who live without electricity, and give a boost to manufacturing.
It would also support the government’s efforts to develop eastern parts of the country, which are resource-rich and hold most of India’s coal reserves but have lagged the western states in development.
State-owned Coal India is on track to produce 1 billion tonnes a year by the end of this decade, and India is counting on private firms to produce the remaining 500 million tones – which may prove a tough target to achieve.
As of now, only Coal India and a small government-owned company are allowed to mine and sell coal in India.
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