Why OMC lost Mandakini-B coal block?

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government may be urging the Centre frantically now to allocate all coal blocks within the state to the state PSU, but the intent does not appear to be backed by concrete action. There seems to be a widening chasm between what the Odisha government professes and what it actually does. The de-allocation of Mandakini-B coal block to state PSU Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) bears ample testimony to this.
The Mandakini-B coal block was allocated on July 25, 2007 jointly to OMC, Assam Mineral Development Corporation, Meghalaya Mineral Development Corporation and Tamil Nadu Electricity Board to meet their coal requirements and respective proposed power plants.

The order of de-allocation issued by the Ministry of Coal has said, “The Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) noted that the development of the block is still at the stage of obtaining Prospecting License (PL). Though a PSU of the concerned state government in which the coal block is located is itself one of the allottees, they have not been able to pursue the necessary clearances”.

The order of the Coal Ministry further adds, “IMG noted that one of the allocated companies, OMC, applied for PL on October 23, 2007. This was refused by the Anugul Collector and a fresh application for PL was filed by a JV company on August 12, 2009. However no PL has been obtained yet”. If the Odisha Government cannot help a state PSU to get the clearances, then it speaks volumes about the bureaucratic hurdles in Odisha. When Utkal-D coal block was de-allocated to OMC earlier this month, steel and mines minister Rajnikant Singh lambasted the Centre for hindering the state’s industrialization process. But can we really blame the Centre when OMC fails to get the clearances from the Odisha government?

More than five years have passed since the date of allotment and there is no progress in the development of the coal block or in the development of linked end-use power projects. Investment made by OMC and other PSUs in Mandakini-B is negligible and even the location of most end-use plants is yet to be decided. Can we now blame the Centre only for de-allocation of Mandakini-B coal block?