Guwahati: In a significant development, which might have long lasting impact on Assam and some other parts of Northeast India, the Centre, for the first time in history, is launching commercial coal auctions in the country on June 18.

The Centre’s move assumes significance as people in large numbers are continuously opposing the move to extract coal from different parts of the Northeast which has been posing serious threat to the biodiversity over the years.

This decision comes a month after the Union Cabinet approved the new revenue-sharing model which puts an end to the monopoly of state-run Coal India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on June 18 launch the auction of coal mines for commercial mining at an event to be held in New Delhi via video conferencing.

The launch of auction will be with the theme “Unleashing coal: New hopes for Aatmanirbhar Bharat”, the coal ministry said in a statement.

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Small carts being used to carry coal from the mines

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“We are launching first-ever commercial coal auctions in country on 18th June. Event will be graced by PM @NarendraModi Ji. It is his vision & guidance to make #AtmaNirbharBharat in coal. I am proud that we are well on our way to achieve it,” coal minister Prahlad Joshi said in a tweet.

As India has recently embraced the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the coal and mining sector has started gearing up to make the country self-reliant in coal mining through structural reforms, the ministry said.

The commercial coal mining auction is completely different from the earlier regime of restricted sectors, use and price. Now there are no such restrictions at all.

The proposed auction has business-friendly terms and conditions, including reduced upfront amount, adjustment of upfront amount against royalty and liberal efficiency parameters to encourage flexibility to operationalise the coal mines.

Besides, 100 per cent FDI through automatic route has been allowed and there are reasonable financial terms and revenue sharing model based on National Coal Index.

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The successful bidders will also have flexibility in coal production unlike the past and have provision for incentives for early production and coal gasification. Around 50 coal blocks are likely to be auctioned for commercial coal mining, a source had said earlier. The mines to be put up for auction would be in three categories — small, medium and large. Some of the mines would come into production within a year of being auctioned, the source had added.

The government had last month approved a methodology for commercial mining of coal on revenue sharing basis.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while announcing the stimulus package for the coronavirus-hit economy, had said coal mines would be auctioned to the private sector for commercial mining to end reliance on imports and improve local production.

The methodology approved by CCEA provides that bid parameter will be revenue share, the government had said, adding that bidders would be required to bid for a percentage share of revenue payable to the government.

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