Reported by Chinmaya Dehury/Edited by Sandeep Sahu
Bhubaneswar, Sep 7:
The Odisha government has decided to put on hold the handing over of land to Machhakata coal mine project to be developed by Mahaguj Collieries Ltd till the issue of free power from thermal power plants and plants based on coal washery rejects is resolved.
“Since land acquisition is a time-bound process and declaration under Section 6 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act has already been issued for part of the project area, Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) may be allowed to proceed with the land acquisition process in respect of the three remaining villages. However, land acquired for the project should not be handed over to the project developer until we decide on the quantum of free power”, chief secretary J K Mohapatra wrote in a file notesheet.
The integrated coal mine project in Angul district at an estimated cost of Rs 20,000 crore is a joint venture between Maharashtra Power Generation Company Ltd (Mahagenco) and Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Ltd (GSECL). MGCL has proposed to set up a 2500 MW (10×250 MW) power plant based on coal washery rejects.
It may be noted that Odisha had demanded 25 per cent of free power from coal-based power plants and 33 per cent free power from power plants based on coal washery rejects. Later, the state government had scaled down its power demand from plants based on washery rejects to 13 per cent in line with the provision for free power guaranteed under National Hydro Policy.
A team of The Energy & Resources Institute (Teri) had visited Odisha recently to conduct a study on equitable sharing of benefits arising from coal mining and power generation amongst resource rich states. The objective of the study, commissioned by the Planning Commission, was also to examine the impact of allowing free power at variable cost from coal based power plants in the host state.
The state government is now awaiting the report from TERI before taking a final view on the matter of free power. The report is expected by December this year.
The Machhakata coal block awarded to Mahaguj Collieries Ltd has mineable coal reserves of 1244 million tonnes. The block will have an initial mining capacity of 30 million tonne per annum (MTPA) that is to be subsequently ramped up to 50 MTPA. The mining lease is spread over 3023 hectares.
Notably, Mahaguj Collieries Ltd had written to the Odisha chief secretary, pressing for start of land acquisition in three affected villages – Machhakata, Sapoinali and Podapada. The land in these villages is located within the coal block area and is exclusively required for coal mining.