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WBPDCL to begin coal mining ops by Dec

Kolkata: The West Bengal Power Development Ltd (WBPDCL), the state generation utility, could well be among first state-owned generation utility in India to start mining operations following reallocation of coal blocks last year. It is hoping to start mining operations from December as the state utility has won legal battles against the erstwhile mining development operator (MDO), Emta, last week. Emta Group went to court against the fresh auction of coal blocks reallocated to WBPDCL .

A state government official said the state power utility has cleared the legal hurdles for three blocks last week. These are: Tara (East&West), Gangaramchak and Borjora. Earlier in May, WBPDCL won the legal battle for two blocks North And Panchwara (north) and subsequently appointed MDOs for these blocks. Ahmedabad-based Monte Carlo has been selected as MDO for Borjora North while for Panchwara (North), it was NCC BGR. BGR Infra is based in Hyderabad while NCC is a Rajasthan-based company.

"Now, the company will start the tender process to select MDOs for rest of the blocks. The reverse bidding process will start in a week. Karnataka and Punjab are still fighting legal battles with Emta regarding selection of MDOs in reallocated blocks. Only West Bengal has cleared the hurdles," an official added.

When contacted, WBPDCL chairman Santanu Basu confirmed the development."We shall start the reverse bidding process soon for the rest of the mines," he added.

 Dabanjan Mandal,partner at Fox& Mandal, the legal counsel for WBPDCL in the case, said,"All pending litigations related to e-auction of coal blocks allocated to WBPDCL has been successfully disbursed in favour of the company, there by enabling WBPDCL to proceed with tendering process for selection of MDOs."

An senior government official pointed out that the state power utility is now trying hard to clear other hurdles like environment and forest clearance, ground water clearance, mining lease and plan."Lot of clearances are needed for starting mining activity. We are hopeful that by December at least one mine will be operational," added an official.

The combined reserve of the mines allocated to the state power utility is over 850 million tonne with Borjora North alone has a reserve of 700 million tonne. This will translate into a windfall for the ailing state exchequer which will reap benefit through cess and royalty on coal once MDOs start mining in these blocks worth over Rs 40,000 crore."The mining in these blocks got delayed by 6-7 months due to the case filed by Emta Group for which the state government has lost revenue and WBPDCL was denied cheaper source of coal for few months," added the source.

The Supreme Court had cancelled allocation of 214 coal blocks in September 2014 in a landmark judgment. All the coal blocks with WBPDCL, DPL and other state corporations were cancelled following the verdict.

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