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The Centre is moving to amend the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition & Development Act), 1957 to ensure that the first round of coal block auction is a success.
The Act gives special power to State-owned miners to acquire coal-bearing land. On the flipside, land once vested and possessed using the CB Act can never be returned to anyone, even to the government.
The proposed amendment seeks to create an opportunity for returning the land.
In a meeting in Ranchi with prospective bidders for captive coal assets earlier this month, AK Bhalla, the Joint Secretary of Coal, said a move was initiated to amend the law, a source told Business Line . Of the three blocks, at least two assets - earmarked for cement and sponge iron sectors - include areas once acquired through the CB Act by Coal India Ltd.
While the Centre had taken back the assets from CIL for redistribution, the existing legal provisions made it impossible to hand over this land to the successful bidders.
Around 40 companies, including Tata Steel, SAIL, NMDC, JSW, JSPL, Bhushan Steel, Lafarge, UltraTech Cement, India Cement and Reliance Cement, have expressed interest in participating in the bidding round.
CIL welcomes move
Welcoming the move, a CIL official said the proposed amendment would help the company return large chunks of mined-out land to the Central or State governments either for afforestation or rehabilitating the project-affected people.
At present, the miner controls nearly 1.5 lakh hectares of land, of which nearly 20 per cent is estimated to be mined out.
To get rid of the unused land, CIL proposed amendments to the CB Actin 2008. Butthe Coal Ministry failed to take it forward.
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