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Coal Ministry Says In Process Of Finalising Mine Closure Framework

The Indian coal sector is relatively new to the concept of systematic mine closure. Mine closure guidelines were first introduced in 2009, re-issued in 2013 and are still evolving.

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The coal ministry on Wednesday said it is in the process of finalising a robust mine closure framework on three major aspects — institutional governance; people and communities; and environmental reclamation and land re-purposing on the principles of just transition.

The ministry is in consultation with the World Bank for obtaining support and assistance in this programme, the coal ministry said in a statement.

Vast experience of the World Bank in handling mine closure cases in different countries will be highly beneficial and will facilitate the adoption of the best practices and standards in handling mine closure cases.

A preliminary project report (PPR) for the proposed engagement with the World Bank has been submitted to the finance ministry for the necessary approvals.

The process of re-purposing of closed mines sites has already been set in motion by the sustainable development cell of the coal ministry.

Several rounds of meetings have been held with coal companies and the coal controller office to discuss various aspects related to the envisaged programme.

Inter-ministerial consultations have also been conducted with the ministries concerned and the NITI Aayog to obtain their views and suggestions.

As of now, the Indian coal sector is doing its best to fulfil the country''s energy demand by augmenting coal production. At the same time, it is also taking various initiatives towards adopting the path of sustainable development with an emphasis on care for the environment and the host community.

However, the Indian coal sector is relatively new to the concept of systematic mine closure. Mine closure guidelines were first introduced in 2009, re-issued in 2013 and are still evolving.

"As coal mining in India had started long ago, our coalfields are replete with several legacy mines remaining unused for long. In addition, mines are closing and will close in future also due to reasons such as exhaustion of reserves, adverse geo-mining conditions, safety issues, etc," the statement said.

These mine sites should not only be made safe and environmentally stable but the continuity of livelihood should be ensured for those who were directly or indirectly dependent on the mines.

Reclaimed lands will also be repurposed for economic use of the community and state, including tourism, sports, forestry, agriculture, horticulture and townships.

The coal ministry has, therefore, envisaged building an all-inclusive comprehensive India-wide mine closure framework to cover legacy mines, recently closed mines and mine closures scheduled to happen in short term.

The entire exercise will have two important components.

Phase-1 involves comprehensive mapping of the Indian coal ecosystem to establish a detailed baseline in respect of current and pending coal mine closures — readiness and capacities of institutions, existing closure processes, socio-economic status around coal mines and an environmental baseline.

The outcome of this exercise will suggest reforms in the existing statutory and institutional framework and come out with a road map for mine closure covering the above mentioned three major aspects along with financial arrangements.

Phase 2 will be the actual implementation of the mine closure programme as per the finalised road map and will include pre-closure planning, early closure and road map for the regional transition to ensure that no one is left behind.

This phase will start after the completion of Phase-1 and will continue for a long and may undergo subtle changes based on the lessons learnt during execution.

Phase 1 of the programme, which is likely to continue for 10-12 months, is expected to start shortly. A special-purpose entity (SPE), under the administrative control of the coal controller office, is to be constituted to oversee the implementation of both phases of this programme.

Coal companies are to form dedicated multi-disciplinary teams to coordinate with SPE for the successful execution of the programme.

It is expected that continuous learning during the next three-four years will lead to the development of a comprehensive mine closure framework, adequate strengthening of mine closure institutions and much-improved policy needed to support mine closures that will happen in the medium to longer term.

The most important outcome of the programme will be sustainable remediation of all legacy mine sites, which are lying unattended for a long. Not only the mine sites will be restored sustainably but the livelihood of families, dependent on mines, will also be taken care of. 


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