Steel players hail govt's decision to open coal sector

New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) Indian steel industry on Wednesday welcomed the government's decision to promulgate an ordinance to open up coal mining in the country to non-coal companies.

In a statement, apex steel industry body Indian Steel Association (ISA) said it hails the decision of the Cabinet to amend MMDR Act 1957 and Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act 2015.

'This is a huge reform announced by the government on commercial mining in Coal. This change in Act will help the country to reduce its dependence on coal imports and help attract investments from Indian and Global corporates,' it said.

The amendment, ISA said, will remove the end-user restrictions besides allowing seamless transfer of environment and forest clearance in operational mines.

The step taken today was a long pending reform which will make the domestic steel industry more competitive on a global level, the association said.

JSW Steel Chairman Sajjan Jindal said the move will go a long way in reducing the coal imports.

'Huge reform announced by the government on commercial mining in coal. This will go a long way in reducing the coal imports which is over USD 15 billion/year,' he said.

In today's time when the oil prices are very uncertain, Jindal said, the decision was path breaking in making India self-reliant.

Continuity of all forest and environment clearances for iron-ore mines for a period of two years is another great reform, he added.

'This was a long pending reform which will make the Indian Steel industry more aggressive and competitive on a global level,' he said.

JSPL Chairman V R Sharma termed the decision as a 'game changer' for the industry.

India has reserves for another 300 years and the time is ripe to use it. If it is not utilised now, it wont be able to utilised in future as developed countries are against coal usage.

'They are spreading on international platforms that using coal is damaging the environment, which is incorrect. Like we do at our Angul plant which is India's first and largest syngas-based DRI plant and coal gasification plant (CGP) for steel-making,' he said.

Coal can be converted into syngas which can be used for producing petrol, diesel and other petroleum products, which can reduce dependence on crude oil imports, he added.

The government on Wednesday approved an Ordinance to amend a law in order to ease rules for auctioning of coal mines and opening it for non-coal companies.

The decision taken by the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will also do away with end-use restrictions of the mining blocks, Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said.

'The Cabinet has approved promulgation of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020,' the minister said, addressing media after the Cabinet meeting.

The Ordinance will ease rules for auctioning coal mines to open up to all sectors.

It will allow auction of 46 iron ore and other mines before March 31, 2020.

'The Centre has also approved gas grid for Northeast states and viability gap funding for Northeast grid. Viability gap funding for the North-East natural gas pipeline Grid is a decision that shows the dedication of this government in encouraging growth in this region,' ISA said.

The government on Wednesday also approved a proposal to provide Rs 5,559 crore viability gap funding for building a 1,656 km gas grid in the Northeast region at a cost of Rs 9,256 crore.

The decision will provide viability gap funding to Indradhanush Gas Grid Ltd for setting up the North East Natural Gas Pipeline Grid. PTI ABI IJT