HC rejects as infructuous Sasan Power’s plea to mine excess coal

New Delhi: The High Court today termed as infructuous a plea by Sasan Power Ltd, a Reliance Power subsidiary, seeking permission to extract excess coal from two mines in Madhya Pradesh, saying that the Centre was already examining the issue.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and C Hari Shankar also noted that an inter ministerial committee had severely criticised the mining being conducted by Sasan Power Ltd (SPL) holding that there was high moisture content in the coal due to water not being properly pumped out.

It also said that SPL was asked to improve the quality of mining.

The committee, led by the chairman, Central Electricity Authority, was formed to examine the issue of requirement of coal for Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (Sasan UMPP)and give its recommendation.

“In any case, the respondents (Union of India and Ministry of Coal) are examining the requests for increase in the variations in the mining cap on behalf of the petitioner (SPL) on the basis of factual disclosures made by them. The application is therefore, dismissed as infructuous,” the bench said.

It passed the order on the application of the company seeking permission to mine at least 19 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of coal from Moher and Moher Amlohri Extension coal mines in Madhya Pradesh during the financial year 2017-18.

“We also find that so far as the request of the petitioner to permit increase of the cap for the coal mining is concerned, the Ministry (of Coal) has been taking considered decisions,” it said.

The company had earlier sought permission to mine coal from its two mines in excess of the 17 MTPA cap to enable it to run the 3,960-megawatt Sasan UMPP in the state.

In an affidavit, the coal ministry had told the court that through a letter of February 26 this year, it had permitted Reliance Power, as an interim one-time measure, to extract 18 MTPA in excess of the 17 MTPA cap.

The company was granted the permission to produce additional one million tonne for the financial year ending March 31, 2018.

SPL, in its application, had contended that the mining of 17 MTPA of the mineral allowed from its Moher and Moher Amlohri blocks was not enough to carry out operations till the end of the financial year 2017-18.

The firm had claimed that if it was not allowed to mine another two MTPA, that is up to 19 MTPA, in 2017-18, it would not be able to meet the requirements of Sasan UMPP that supplies electricity to 14 discoms in seven states, including Delhi.

It had submitted that in such a situation, the threat of a shutdown was looming large over the operation of the power project.

According to the company, it supplied electricity under a 25-year-long power purchase agreement on a tariff of Rs 1.196 per kWh to 14 discoms across the states of Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The application was filed in the main writ petition by Reliance Power and Sasan challenging the Centre’s May 7, 2015, decision to cancel one of the three coal blocks allocated to Sasan UMPP.

The government had justified the cancellation, saying the unit’s coal requirement could be met by the other two mines, Moher and Moher-Amlohri extension.

The integrated power plant-cum-coal mining project at a single location involved an investment of over Rs 27,000 crore, the petition said.

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