For the first time in four decades, India may open up commercial coal mining to private firms in the new year with the government keen on gradually moving out of the end-use restrictions and cutting down on dependence on imports.
"Yes. I think we could look at that. There is some interest in commercial mining. We are also keen that gradually the country moves out of these end-use restrictions and all these controls because we are seeing the surplus situation. I don't see for the next many years, the country will have any shortages of coal," Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said.
His Ministry sees the country's dependence on import of fossil fuel coming further down in the New Year.
"In such a situation, I think gradually my next step will be to move out from these end-use restrictions and hopefully in a year or two, we may be in a position that we don't need to have any restrictions. Coal could be an open commodity," the minister asserted.
Asserting that challenges are in some people's mind and he sees no challenges in the coming year in the coal sector, Goyal exuded confidence that the output of the fossil fuel would witness a good growth in 2017. "I see no challenges (in the coal sector in 2017). Challenges are in some people's mind. For me, these are all opportunities," the Minister said. "To my mind, we will see good growth in 2017 both in consumption of electricity, particularly thermal as well as the production of coal and bring down the imports even further," Goyal said.
The government's focus in the coming year would to implement all the plans for clean coal so that more washeries are on line. The Coal Ministry would also flex its muscles to see how coal mine operation could be made environment- friendly.
"Our focus for (2017 will be)...to see how coal mines operation can be made environment-friendly so that the people who work there, the villagers around there, don't have to suffer from pollution effects –to see how the water that come out of the coal mine can be processed so that we don't damage the water quality and the ground quality by injecting bad quality of water in the ground or into the rivers," he said.
"So this is going to be a year where coal will integrate itself with the environmental efforts, with the big push that the Narendra Modi government is giving for cleaner environment in the country," he added.