India opens third tranche of commercial coal auctions with 88 mines

The Union coal ministry launched the third tranche of commercial coal auctions, offering 88 mines with geological reserves of 55 billion tonnes of coal and annual peak rated capacity of 282 million tonnes. As many as 48 coal mines in the list are “roll over” mines which could not find bidders in the previous two rounds of auctions.

As many as 57 of these mines are fully explored mines and the rest are partially explored. The mines are spread across Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

The auction is being launched at a time when scarcity of coal has led to electricity supply shortages across several states. Reiterating that the coal will continue to play a major part in the country’s energy mix for next 35-40 years, Union coal minister Pralhad Joshi said that India is currently one of the lowest in terms of per capita consumption of power as compared to the developed countries, and electricity demand here is expected to double by 2040.

The government had offered 67 blocks under the second round of auction in August for commercial mining, out of which only eight mines could be put up for final bidding. In the maiden auction round under the commercial coal mining policy, held in November last year, as many as 19 mines out of the 38 offered could be auctioned off.

Currently, the government is also working on the second round of bidding for 11 coal mines which had received only single bid in the second tranche of auction. A similar ‘second attempt’ was conducted after the maiden auction tranche in 2020, and four coal mines which had fetched single bids in the first round were put up for re-auction. These coal assets, with no end-use restrictions, are being auctioned off through the new market-determined revenue share model that replaced the fixed fee/tonne regime that had earlier turned off private investors.

Out of the 3.4 lakh tonnes of total coal reserves in the country, public sector undertakings currently own blocks with combined reserves of nearly 2 lakh tonnes.

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