Published on 11/02/2014
New Coal Mining Sector Projects are required to obtain a prior environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India or on its behalf through the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority as prescribed. Such proposals for clearance require an EIA and a public consultation procedure to be fulfilled. Detailed procedures for an Environmental Clearance are prescribed in the notification no. S.O. 1533 dated 14-09-2006 and its various amendments issued by the Government of India.
Expansion proposals in respect of projects which have been earlier granted an Environmental Clearance under the notification of 1994 or the notification of 2006 will require a diligent examination by the committee on whether an EIA and a public hearing are involved. A set of guidelines have been issued by the MoEF on 19/12/2012 and revised on 07/01/2014 which are discussed below.
The Clearance process
Coal Mining Sector projects are included in category 1a (Mining of Minerals) of the list of projects or activities requiring prior environmental clearance under the EIA notification no. S.O.1533 dated 14-09-2006. Mining areas more than 50 hectares are to obtain clearance from the MoEF, Government of India, New Delhi. Clearance to mining leases equal to or less than 50 hectares is considered by the State Level Impact Assessment Authority established by the MoEF, Government of India in the various states. In the absence of a duly constituted Authority at the State Level, all proposals are to be considered at the MoEF, Government of India, Delhi. It has also been prescribed that if the Coal Mining project is located within 10 Kms from the boundary of a protected area notified under the Wild life (Protection) Act. 1972 or a critically polluted area as notified by the CPCB from time to time, notified sensitive areas or interstate or international boundaries, the clearance will be considered by the Central Government. Proposals for new Coal Mining projects or activities require the submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment report and conduct of a public hearing to address to local issues.
Exemption from the Public Consultation Process in respect of expansion projects
In the case of mining projects which have been earlier granted an E.C. and which plan an increase in either the lease area or production capacities (as prescribed in the granted clearance), the requirement of an E.I.A. or Public hearing has to be decided by the committee (Para 7ii of notification). The committee may also, if it feels so, exempt expansion projects from the requirements of an Environmental Impact Assessment report or a Public Hearing.
The Government of India through notification no. J-11013/41/2006-IA II (1) dated 3rd of June 2009 clarified that this exemption invoking clause 7(ii) must be applied judiciously, with reasons granting this exemption, appropriately recorded.
It was also provided, earlier, by the Government of India that this exemption will not apply in case of projects which have been granted a clearance before the coming into force of the EIA notification of 2006. In such cases the public consultation shall be carried out as prescribed. (O.M. dated 24-08-2009).
Guidelines of 15-4-2010
Detailed guidelines for considering exemption from Public consultation had been issued by the MoEF through O.M. no. J-1512/30/2004-IA II (M) dated 15-04-2010 and it was clarified that projects that have obtained an Environmental Clearance under the EIA notification of 1994 will have to compulsorily undergo the process of public consultation as prescribed (in the notification of 2006) for the category.
The guidelines of 15-4-2010 also provided that exemption under the above guidelines could be granted-
- To those expansion projects which have obtained prior EC under the 2006 notification at least once and have under gone public hearing at least once.
- Exemption may be granted once in 05 years.
- The expansion project should also meet the following criteria-
i. There is no additional lease/project area involved.
ii. There is no change in mining method (underground or open cast)
iii. Increase in production is by better housekeeping/efficiency/better technologies.
iv. There is no additional manpower involved.
v. There is no additional equipment involved.
vi. There is no additional water requirement involved or additional water requirement is met by recycling or rain water harvesting.
vii. There is no additional road transportation involved or involving dedicated conveyor-cum-rail mode of transport.
viii. Levels of environmental quality parameters are within limits.
ix. There is no additional Rand R involved and earlier R and R has been completed.
x. The earlier E.C. has been complied with no violations.
xi. The issues raised in earlier public hearings have been complied.
xii. Involving underground mining without involving additional surface rights.
Guidelines of 19-12-2012
These guidelines were superseded by guidelines issued vide office memorandum no. J-11015/30/2004.IA, II (M) dated 19-12-2012 which prescribed that existing coal mining projects, which have a valid Environmental clearance, either under the notification of 1994 or 2006, which apply for one time capacity expansion of upto 25% in the existing mining operation, within the existing mining lease, will be considered for exemption from public hearing subject to the following conditions.
- Such an exemption would be considered for their expansion projects which have obtained prior EC and have undergone public hearing during the process of obtaining EC.
- The proposal is for one time capacity expansion of up to 25% in the existing coal mining operations.
- There is no additional mine lease area involved.
- There is no change in mining method (Underground to opencast)
- Application for the expansion project shall include a certified report of the Regional Office of the MoEF, on the issues of compliance of E.C. conditions stipulated for the existing project for which EC for the expansion project is being sought and necessary action taken thereon by the EAC, in terms of MoEF circular no J-11011/61/2010-IA.II (I) dated 30-05-2012. (The compliance will be discussed in the EAC and recorded) Expansion projects received without the compliance status shall not be accepted and placed for consideration before the EAC.
- Details of Court cases, if any, pending in any court of law against the project as well as directions passed by any court relating to the project shall be furnished by the project proponent directly to the EAC. The EAC will deliberate upon the same and the gist of the discussions reflected in the minutes of the EAC meeting.
- If the project falls in a critically polluted area where the moratoria has been lifted, the committee shall examine the measures required to be implemented by the project proponent under the Environmental Advance Plan prepared by the State Pollution Control Board Concerned and status of implementation. The EAC will also examine the monitoring data furnished by the project proponent of the environmental quality of the study aria/CPA in which the project falls and after due diligence decide if any additional mitigate measures are required for the expansion.
- The 25% expansion in production capacity is subject to a ceiling of 2 MTPA of additional production where the transportation of the additional production is proposed by road and of 5 MTPA of additional production if such transportation is proposed by means of a conveyor and/or rail transport.
Guidelines for small leases dated 7-01-2010
For smaller coal mining projects (up to 8 MTPA) a recent circular of the MoEF issued vide O.M. J-11015/30/2004-iA-II (M) dated 07-01-2014 relaxes the 25% (subject to maximum of 2 MTPA) ceiling and now states that –
‘For expansion proposals of existing coal mining projects having production capacity up to 8 MTPA as per the EC letter, the limit of one time capacity expansion may be considered as 50% or environmental production up to 1 MTPA whichever is more on the existing mining operation, within the existing mine lease area, by the EAC for exemption public hearing under clause 7(ii) of the EIA notification 2006. All other stipulations stated earlier in Office Memorandum dated 19-12-2012 will continue to apply.