Cabinet decides to set up GoM on ''no-go'' mining areas

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New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) With the ministries of Coal andEnvironment being locked in a battle over coal mining,Cabinet today decided to set up a group of ministers (GoM) tolook into the issue of ''no-go'' mining areas with an aim offinding a solution.

The decision is aimed at finding a pragmatic and balancedapproach towards the issue of environmental clearances tomining areas, while ensuring ecology is not hurt, sourcessaid.

At the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singhsaid that the issue of ensuring mining activities whileprotecting environment was a very sensitive and serious issueand required more consultation, sources said.

Therefore, he said a GoM would be an appropriate forumto deal with the sensitive matter.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and EnvironmentMinister Jairam Ramesh, have been at odds over the coal miningissues as the latter has declared 206 mining blocks across thecountry as ''no-go'' areas.

At the meeting, Jaiswal, who has been pushing forrelaxation of the ''no-go'' norms, pleaded his case.

He suggested that a pragmatic approach should beadopted on the issue as ''no-go'' rules were creating problemsin mining of huge reserves of coal, sources said.

Ramesh did not speak and the decision was taken toform the GoM which is likely to be headed by Finance MinsterPranab Mukherjee and include senior ministers-- Home MinisterP Chidambaram, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, EnvironmentMinister Jairam Ramesh, Mines Minister B K Handique and PlanCommission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

"We are waiting for the further guidelines," Jaiswallater told PTI.

Last year, the Environment Ministry had defined''no-go'' areas for mining as those that have over 30 per centgross forest cover or over 10 per cent weighted forest cover.

As per the guidelines, the mining is allowed only inthe ''go'' areas.

The ''no-go'' classification has brought 206 coal blocksinvolving a production potential of 660 million tonnes perannum (MTPA) under its ambit.

"The issue is not percentage, our view is that apragmatic approach should be followed which does not hamperthe growth of the country and we are hopeful that the GoM willprecisely achieve that," a source in coal ministry said.

The Coal Ministry is of the view that prohibiting coalmining in 206 blocks would affect about 1,30,000 MW potentialpower generation capacity. These coal blocks are spread across4,039 sq km in nine coalfields.

To find a middle path, an idea is being mooted underwhich mining in a forest area could be undertaken in phases,sources said.

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