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India opens commercial coal mining to private sector

India approved a plan to allow private companies to participate in bidding for coal mines for commercial production, Reuters reported Feb. 20, citing Coal Minister Piyush Goyal.

The move is expected to end state-owned Coal India Ltd.'s near monopoly on mining and selling coal in the country, after more than four decades of restrictions. Coal India accounts for 84% of the country's coal production. Producers of power, steel, cement and aluminum were allowed to produce coal for their own use.

Revenue from the auction of coal blocks is expected to go to the relevant Indian states.

India imported 116.1 million tonnes of the fossil fuel during the seven months ended October 2017, compared to 191 million tonnes imported during the year ended March 2017. The country is targeting production of 1 billion tonnes of coal by 2022.

The proposed coal auctions are intended to attract companies such as Adani Enterprises Ltd., Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton Group, Glencore Plc, Anglo American Plc and Peabody Energy Corp. Companies will submit bids comprising prices per tonne of coal.

"This reform is expected to bring efficiency into the coal sector by moving from an era of monopoly to competition," a government statement read. "It will increase competitiveness and allow the use of best possible technology into the sector."