In the last week of August, Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited (CIL) received an order from Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) to shut down operations in 22 open-cast mines out of their 103 mines; the closure would have led to the loss of coal production of 40000 tonne a day, that BCCL supplies to SAIL and other Thermal Power Plants on daily basis. Also the fact that Coking Coal realized from these BCCL’s mines fetches good price at a decent profit margin.
Open Cast Mines are Muraidih, Shatabdi, Block II, Jamunia, Govindpur, Gajlitarh, AKWM, Tetulmari, Senara, Bansjora, Gondudih, Khaas, Ena, Kujama, Ginagarha, Barha South, Gopalichak, and Dahibari; while Phularitah, Kushanda, and Bahra North are Open-Cast Mines with few portions of them are Under-Ground Mines. The Mudidih mine is only underground. It is said the BCCL’s decision to convert many of its Under-Ground Mines to Open-Cast Mines, so as to increase its coal production capacity; it could be one of the reason behind the shut down orders from JSPCB. Few pertinent points to be noted here, is that generally the Open-Cast Mines have considerably lower cost of operations than the Under-Ground Mines although these Open-Cast Mines comparatively inflict much more environmental and ecological damage to the surrounding areas of the mines.
“The closure orders were passed as the BCCL did not get clearance from the ministry of environment,” JSPCB member Sanjay Kumar said. “The BCCL upgraded its technology and started work without clearance. The BCCL authorities did not respond to our notices.” However, one of the top BCCL officials confirmed that the company has approached the Jharkhand High Court seeking relief in the matter.
Giving relief to the CIL, the Jharkhand High Court directed the company to file a rejoinder to the arguments filed by the JSPCB and deferred the JPSCB orders till September 2011.
Since CIL’s initial public offerings (IPO) debut in 4th November 2010, the share prices have shown a very healthy upswing. In fact, CIL became India’s most valuable company in terms of market capitalization, hovering around US Dollar (USD) 55 billion (August 17th figure) going past companies like Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and another Public Sector Unit (PSU) Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India. On the other hand, at the world stage CIL is still a smaller company, more so when we look at the Apple and Exxon Mobil’s market capitalization of USD 337 billion and USD 330 billion (August 10th figure).
We know that CIL is one of the world’s biggest miners, and a public sector behemoth that monopolizes the coal mining business in India. We only wish CIL sincerely could use its deep pockets do much more for the control of pollution in its mining areas; in addition it could generously contribute towards the welfare of local people adversely affected by its operation through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and it would properly implement the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) policy in its coal mining areas in Jharkhand. CIL would do well to translate its words into concrete action on the ground.
Otherwise, CIL would be betraying the Nehruvian vision of a Public Sector Unit, the one that led to the creation and establishment of companies like CIL. Thus, CIL need to go beyond the narrow view of bottom-line. More so in the era of highly competitive corporate world obsessed only with the short-term view, viz., the quarter-to quarter financial performance and the market-capitalization of a company or the prices of company’s shares. But can CIL or its subsidiaries really do it that is a big question?
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