This comes after some states protested that the Centre was encroaching on their right to approve land acquisition for private miners.
To ease the mining process under the auction, the Centre was considering allowing land acquisition under the CBA Act. This would entail the Centre acquiring land and then leasing it to private miners.
“The Centre is thinking on an initiative wherein land acquisition would be allowed under the CBA Act and the land could then be given to private miners on lease,” said M Nagaraju, joint secretary, ministry of coal and nominated authority for commercial coal auction, during an industry meeting.
However, states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and local activist groups in these states protested against any amendment to the CBA Act. Activists said the amendment would take away states’ authority on land and revenue garnered from it.
Sources said similar concerns were aired by some non-Bharatiya Janata Party ruled mineral rich states during stakeholder discussions earlier this month. To address this, the coal ministry is planning to let states choose. “It will be up to the states. If they want to follow the amended CBA Act and ease the land acquisition and thereby private investment in their states or want to continue with existing provisions of LARR Act,” said an executive privy to the discussion.
The CBA Act provides for acquisition of land containing or likely to contain coal deposits and for matters connected with it. Under this Act, the land is acquired for government companies only for coal mining and activities strictly incidental to mining purposes.
Additionally, the Centre will “de-centralise” the acquisition process for private coal miners. “We have proposed to the mine bearing states that land officers in the states oversee the process of acquisition for private coal miners. The Centre will have no role and states will have full authority,” said the official.
The approval for land acquisition by Central public sector utilities, including Coal India, however, would remain under the ambit of the Centre, said an official.
In June, the Centre had started the auction for commercial mining and sale of coal by private firms. Bidding terms were liberalised to attract foreign players, non-mining entities, and large miners. It amended the Coal Mines Special Provisions Act, 2015, in May to simplify the auction.
The online auction of coal blocks for commercial mining and sale for private companies will commence in October and final winners will be declared in November