Environmental Clearance: Flexibility in Coal and Mineral Production – A Review

- Rajesh Deoliya
17052020

                                                                                                                       



Key Words: MoEFCC, Mining,Coal,Flexibility,EC



The EIA notification-2006 mandates requirement of prior Environmental Clearance (EC) from  the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India (MoEFCC) for matters falling under Category ‘A’ projects and at State level from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for matters falling under Category ‘B’ projects before any construction work, or preparation of land by the project management except for securing the land, is started on the project or activity:

(i)       All new projects or activities listed in the notification;
(ii  Expansion and Modernization of existing projects or activities listed in the   notification with  addition of capacity beyond the limits specified for the concerned sector, that is, projects or activities which cross the threshold limits given in the Schedule, after expansion or modernization;
(iii)     Any change in product - mix in an existing manufacturing unit beyond the 
          specified range.

The above conditions force project proponents of coal or other mineral mining projects to approach the MoEFCC/ SEIAA  in those cases also where the peak capacity is already approved and changes in the operational  part within the mining lease are required for smooth mine operation.  The fresh approval in  EC for such small modifications were seen as hindrance in the smooth working of mining operation. Mineral's sometimes behave abnormally, their disposition and quality parameters are unpredictable hence requires change in the mining strategy. In such situation approaching MoEFCC or SEIAA for approval in modification is time consuming and affect production targets. In competitive business world it may cause financial losses and shifting of business to others. The miner's wanted flexibility in operations from MoEFCC.

In the wake of above concerns the MoEFCC has  came out with relief. The office memorandum ( F.No. 22-44/2018.IA.III) dated 14th May,2020 gives clarification about flexibility in coal or mineral production capacity The important point of office memorandum are as below:

a) That project proponent can produce up to a maximum peak  production capacity permitted in the prior environmental clearance and /or
b) That the project proponent can undertake inter-alia, change in the sequence of mining  operation.

To understand the importance of above relaxations we should read the standard conditions of environmental clearance given in the office memorandum F.No. 22-34/2018. IA.III, dated 9th August,2018 of MoEFCC  for coal mining project. stating that:

a)  No change in the mining method, calendar programme and scope of work shall be made without obtaining prior approval of the MoEFCC.

Similarly, the standard condition in a non-coal mining environmental clearance ( mentioned in EC approval letters)  include following:

a) No change in mining technology and scope of working should be made without prior approval of the MoEFCC
b) No change in the calendar plan including excavation, quantum of mineral and waste should be made.

 The above standard conditions bind a project proponent to get approval in any change in the project parameter even though the pollution load and mitigation measures remain unchanged.

Objective of relaxation:

The mining operations require flexibility in changing and optimizing the production of coal or any other mineral considering the fact that shape, size and quality of a coal seam or mineral body is not uniform throughout the mining lease area. Further, the market condition, requirement of end use plant, use of sub grade mineral or conservation of high grade mineral  may require change in mineral production schedule or sequence of mining. Sequence of mining is nothing but various phases of mining which may be related to horizontal or vertical advancement of a mine.

Change in the Schedule Production:

In the coal mines, the coal is produced from multiple coal seams. The table –I below, for sake of understanding, illustrates that extraction of  coal in "XYZ" coal mine is scheduled from Coal Seam I,II, III and IV within the peak production capacity. The approved peak capacity of this mine is 4 million tonne per annum.
Table - I
 Year
coal seam and scheduled production as per EC.(Million Tonne)
Total Production (Million Tonne)

I
II
III
IV
( Peak Production Capacity 4.0 Million Tonne)
0.50
0.80
1.00
1.50
3.8
0.80
1.10
1.00
1.00
3.9
0.80
1.10
1.10
1.00
4.0
1.00
1.10
0.80
1.10
4.0
              
Now, due to certain complexities the mine owner decides to change the schedule production of coal in third and fourth year while the peak production capacity of 4 million tonne per annum is unchanged ( Table-II). Such changes will now fall under flexibility in mineral production irrespective of calendar plan subject to maximum of capacity granted in the EC.
Table-II
Year
coal seam with change in  production schedule (Million Tonne)
Total Production (Million Tonne)

I
II
III
IV
( Peak Production Capacity 4.0 Million Tonne)
1
0.50
0.80
1.00
1.50
3.8
2
0.80
1.10
1.00
1.00
3.9
3
1.00
0.70
1.00
1.30
4.0
4
1.00
0.70
0.90
1.40
4.0

The flexibility approach provides  easy option to extract more coal from another coal seam instead of previously identified coal seam. The total peak production in this case is not exceeding permitted 4 million tonne per annum and in the environmental impact assessment and environmental management plan mitigation measures for pollution load have already been taken into account then in such case the mine owner should take statutory approvals, if required from Indian Bureau of Mines, Director General Mine Safety etc except MoEFCC.   

Change in Sequence of Mining:

Similarly, the heterogeneous nature of mineral deposits sometimes require frequent changes in the mine planning; say for example, in a mine, during mining operation a situation arise when location of pit, overburden etc may require change from what was approved by expert appraisal committee. Such changes in a mine can also be done without fresh approval from MoEFCC for modification if peak production is not changing. However, they may require approval from IBM etc.

Responsibility of Project Proponent:

Though not given in the office memorandum but In "flexibility of production type situation" the project proponent's ( mine owner) responsibility will be to inform MoEFCC/ SEIAA  through the compliance report about the changes which have taken place. These compliance reports are submitted to MoEFCC periodically. These information should be in detail, with supporting documents/ drawings, approval letter of competent authority like IBM etc, effect on pollution load, mitigation measures ( which are already in the EIA report) and the need for such change or any other which is project specific.

Precaution:

 Though flexibility in production is allowed but to avoid violation, it is better to follow some precautions like:


  • Take approvals from statutory authorities like IBM, DGMS,MoC etc before making any change.
  •  Do not forget to inform to MoEFCC/ SEIAA about the changes done in the mining operations.
  •  Strictly adhere other conditions of EC and Consent To Operate.
  •  Do not compromise with mitigation measures because any deviation may result into violation amounting to penalties.
  • Any other relevant. 
The relaxation through the flexibility in production is in favour of mining companies  this will help in averting violation due to deviation in the stipulated production schedule and sequence of mining.They can plan their mine production now with comfort and ease.  



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Disclaimer: 

The views expressed here are of writer only and does not belong to any organization, associated with.

  



Comments

Unknown said…
IBM is not approving authority for Mining plan for Coal Mines.
It is MOC who approves Mine plan for Coal Mines.
Unknown said…
Well explained Sir. Valid & practical issues highlighted.
No company can implement 100% of their planning.
Government should give some percentage, say 25%, that company can vary from the planned and approved Mine Plan & EC.
This will ease a lot of complications both for Government & Mine Owners / Industries.
Thanking you.
Regards,
Niraj
P K Dwivedi said…
This is good move for mining companies. The thing is that this should be taken with same letter and spirit as intended.
Amit sharma said…
Thanq so much for writing something on current issues realted to mining and our day to day working...
Sir , I have one question tht in our non coal mining cases where MOEF does not bother much about yearly production planning /scheduling, MOEF says tht your production should not go beyond the approved capacity. Whereas IBM, always ask the question and give violation , if we have not worked out as per the scheduled plan or the area proposed in Mining Plan, irrespective of the overall production within obtained EC capacity... so now IBM will also not take any action on this ..??
Amit sharma

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