Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot paid a four-hour visit to Chhattisgarh on Friday to try to persuade Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to allow coal mining in Hasdeo Aranya region to meet electricity needs of his state.
The government of Rajasthan owns the Parsa East Kente Basan (PEKB) coal block in the pristine forest area of Sarguja district in Chhattisgarh. In January, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests authorized mining and development operator, Adani Enterprises Ltd, to mine the second phase of this area.
Now the green light from the state government is awaited – and Gehlot wants to speed things up.
Gehlot, speaking to reporters in the capital Raipur, said an “unimaginable crisis” is looming in his state. “If we don’t get the coal supply from Chhattisgarh, our factories will close.”
The Rajasthan CM met with Baghel and officials from the energy department on Friday.
“We appreciate the regional issues here, but the central government grants a mining license after a long verification process. We only ask for what has been allocated to us,” he said.
In January, the Ministry of Environment also increased the production capacity of the second phase to 18 million tonnes per annum (MTPA).
The project will affect 1,136 hectares of the Hasdeo Aranya forest.
In 2012, Forest Clearance was granted by the MoEF for Phase I mining of the PEKB coal mines, which limited exploitation to 762 hectares and a reserve of 137 million tonnes, which was to be mined for 15 years at the rate of 10 MTPA. In 2018, the MDO applied for permits to increase the amount of extraction and was authorized to extract 15 MTPA per year.
The Indian Express has learned that in its first mining plan, the MDO declared 47.2 tonnes of coal to be unmineable. In the second mining plan, submitted to the MoEF in 2018, it was stated that the stranded coal was more. “Out of a total gross geological reserve of 516.40 mt, a geological reserve of 52.15 mt will be locked in a barrier and a paste of 7.5 m. Out of a 52.15 ton coal stockpile locked in a barrier and 7.5m paste, 15.65 tons have been proposed to be recovered by High Wall Mining,” the MDO said in its revised mine plan, learns -we.
However, the blocked coal rose to 54.99 MT in September 2020 when Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam wrote to the MoEF claiming: “…The earlier calculation of the reserve of 137 MT had missed some important safety factors for the slope of the mine and the reserve was calculated without taking into account the locked reserve. mine working benches keeping the degree of safety of the slopes of the benches. Thus, reducing the actual harvestable reserve of Phase I Forest Land to 82.01 MT results in an early depletion of the Phase 1 reserve.”
Details submitted by the project proponents to the MoEF also clarified that as of January 2022, only 80.39 MT out of 137 MT has been mined by Adani. Before the capacity of the mines was increased, the MDO was still mining less than 10 MT each year. After 2018, however, once mining capacity was increased to 15 MTPA, the mine’s coal production soared and met targets every year, The Indian Express has learned.
“Nearly 55 million tonnes of coal qualify as blocked coal by Adani. Clearly there were violations of the mining plan, as the plan was 15 years old, but the coal was mined in just 8 years. If RRVUNL knew about the miscalculation of the coal reserve, why didn’t they raise a point sooner, even when they were increasing their production capacity. In fact, in 2018 they said they would also extract 15.65 MT from the blocked reserve. This is clearly to mislead the authorities and the general public,” said Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan official Alok Shukla, who works closely with the Hasdeo Bachao Samiti, a group of local tribes protesting the destruction of the forest to mining.
The Rajasthan government and MDO Adani have also secured environmental clearance for the Parsa coal block in the same region.
Residents of several villages in three districts that will be affected by the expansion of the PEKB mines and the opening of the Parsa mines have been protesting the decision for years. Last year, tribals marched more than 300km to register their protest in front of the governor and chief minister, only returning when assured of action by the authorities.
Villagers again began a sit-in protest against mining. “Our jungles are known as the lungs of the state, they are watersheds for the rivers that supply several districts with water. We will not leave our land, even if we have to give our life for it,” said Eunas Morga, a protester from one of the villages.