New Delhi: State-owned Coal India, which is targeting 908 million tonnes of output by 2020, has been denied environment clearance for expansion of one-time production capacity by 50 per cent in existing operations without public hearing.
With future coal mining projects stuck in delay over acquisition of land and rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) issues, among others, CIL had applied for environment clearance for one-time production capacity expansion by 50 per cent in existing operations without public hearing.
"Blanket permission for 50 per cent expansion without public hearing under 7(ii) of EIA Notification, 2015, and without capping for sustainable mining cannot be given," an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Environment Ministry said after assessing the proposal at a recent meeting.
Enhancement in production capacity will automatically reduce the mine life and adversely impact livelihood of local communities. It may also impact air quality, coal handling and transportation, according to the minutes of the EAC meeting.
"While considering any such proposal, a detailed sample study for socio-economic aspects needs to be carried out to assess the extent of impact," EAC noted.
CIL has informed EAC that it's facing hurdles to increase production from future projects to 908 million tonnes in 2019-20 from the existing level of 500 million tonnes.
"The only option left with CIL is to enhance its production from existing and ongoing projects. This will be achieved by advancing project activities and resources without deviating from the environmental norms," it said.
It also said that as many as 172 projects still require land, 73 projects have R&R issues, 121 projects require development of railway infrastructure for coal evacuation, 212 projects require environment clearance and 154 projects need forest clearance.
Also, there is a delay in authentication of land and R&R sites by state authorities, exorbitant demand from project affected peoples beyond the norms, delay in obtaining NoC from state authorities as well as handover of forest land, delaying the commissioning of future projects, it reasoned.
CIL also clarified that environment impact of expansion of production by 50 per cent from the existing operations would be confined to only additional dust generation while removal and backfilling of overburden -- the layer of earth above coal seams that has to be dug out before mining coal -- will not be affected.
The other environmental parameters would remain within prescribed standards due to mitigation measures to be undertaken, it said, adding that there will not be any additional component in public hearing because there is no increase in leasehold and all the issues of public hearing remain addressed.