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JSPL connived with govt officials to mine more coal than permitted: CBI

Coal ministry officials had “connived” with Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) to allow it to “illegally” mine nearly three times more coal than permitted, says a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the coal block allocation scam.

The agency, which has incorporated these details in the First Information Report (FIR) filed in the Gare Palma block case in Chhattisgarh, has said the ministry officials in connivance with the company not only overlooked the excess mining but also regularised it.

In the FIR, which has now been accessed, the agency has said according to data available “on record” while the approved coal production during 1998-99 to 2002-03 was 1.3 million tonnes (mt), the actual coal production by the company was about six mt. The production was an excess of 4.6 mt (nearly 300 per cent above the sanctioned extraction) of coal mined “irregularly”.

Defending its position, JSPL spokesperson said the production schedules mentioned for the first five years in the mine plans were based on the guidelines mentioned under section 22 (5) of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, wherein the registered qualified person (RQP), who prepares the mine plan, gives a tentative scheme of mining and annual plan for excavation from year to year for five years.

The spokesperson said it might, therefore, be noted that according to the approved capacity of two million tonnes a year for the first five years was below the cumulative year-wise capacity of 10 mt and, hence, there was no excess mining as alleged.

The agency has alleged that there was excess coal mining in all the five years against the rate approved in the mine plan and no prior permission was obtained from the coal ministry.

The excess mining came “on record” during a presentation made by the company before the standing committee of the coal ministry for the revised mine plan in 2004 but the ministry “did not take any action” against the company, CBI said. The role of RQP has also come under the scanner of CBI which has said RQP was suspended by the coal ministry after irregular mining lease came to the notice of the ministry but no action was taken against the company.

“Though he was suspended, the same RQP was again instrumental in preparation of the revised mine plan of 2008,” the agency said.

According to CBI, the company continued “unauthorised” excess extraction of coal in the years 2003-04 and 2004-05 (ruled by the National Democratic Alliance and the United Progressive Alliance governments, respectively) without the approval of the coal ministry.

The agency has also said excess coal mined during 2003-04 and 2004-05 was 1.4 mt. The JSPL spokesperson said even for the first six years the coal production remained within 12 mt, though there were “slight deviations” in 2003-04 and 2004-05 beyond the annual approved capacity.

“The chief metropolitan magistrate, Raigarh, had also found no irregularity in such minor deviations (in a case filed by the Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board), which had been duly regularised by the central government and the state government.” the spokesperson said.

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