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SC order on coal: Banks to ask RBI for recasting loans

Acknowledging that the Supreme Court order on mass cancellation of coal block licences may impact banks' asset quality, a top Finance Ministry official on Monday said the lenders will approach RBI for restructuring such assets.

'Some impact may be there, and what exactly it will be is being assessed. The banks will be talking to RBI so that they are given some kind of flexibility in restructuring those accounts...efforts will be made to avoid these accounts from becoming NPAs,' Financial Services Secretary G S Sandhu said here. He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.

The Financial Services Department, which oversees functioning of all the 27 state-run banks — who control nearly three-fourths of banking system — is also talking to the coal and power ministries to ensure that the fuel supply alternatives are put in place, he said.

On the affected sectors, Sandhu said banks have lent to power companies and steel plants which in turn have coal linkages with the cancelled coal mines. Indian Banks Association, which represents bank managements, had discussed the matter at a meeting last week and hinted at seeking a 'regulatory forbearance' in case there is impact on the asset quality from the affected accounts.

The Supreme Court on 25 September cancelled the allocation of 214 coal blocks made since 1993, impacting at least 11 corporate groups like JSW Steel and Hindalco.

Bankers point out that only 46 of these mines are operational and implications of the ruling will have to be studied.

Meanwhile, State-owned Singareni Collieries Company Ltd will next month commence operations at the nation's largest underground mine, with annual capacity of 2.8 million tonne, a move that could help the PSU surpass its output target for the current fiscal.

The mine's operationalisation will come at a time when power stations in the country are starved of the dry fuel. 'The trail runs of Adriyala Shaft underground coal mine project in Karimnagar district of Telangana State are already on. The commercial operations at the project will begin next month,' an official said on the conditions of anonymity.

The government had in August approved the revised estimates of the project, the official said. However, he did not provide the details.

The official said: 'The state-of-the-art project has long-wall technology and long-wall sets installed.'
SCCL's output is just about 10 per cent of what Coal India Ltd, the world's largest miner, produces.
Jointly owned by the Government of Telangana and Government of India on a 51:49 equity basis, SCCL provides coal to some of the leading power plants of the companies like NTPC's Ramagundam Super Thermal Power Plant.
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