November 19, 2015 / 9:04 AM / 4 years ago

India to sell more coal mines in production push - govt official

A general view of a coal stockyard is pictured in East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Krishna N. Das/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will auction another eight coal blocks to private steel, cement and electricity companies in January, coal secretary Anil Swarup said on Thursday, as it races to more than double output to 1.5 billion tonnes this decade to power its economy.

India’s government started selling coal mines earlier this year through auctions after its supreme court scrapped the controversial practice of selective allocation to private companies.

Top companies like Adani Power Ltd (ADAN.NS) and the GMR Group have won coal mines in three rounds of auctions so far, and interest is expected to remain robust for the upcoming auction for blocks in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Total peak production at those mines is estimated at 12.9 million tonnes.

The government expects private companies to produce as much as 500 million tonnes of coal per year by 2020, while it expects state behemoth Coal India (COAL.NS) to churn out 1 billion tonnes.

Coal India’s output has been rising at a record pace and Swarup said it was on course to meet a target of 550 million tonnes for this fiscal year ending March 31. The much-maligned company has been credited with a turnaround thanks to the opening of many new mines and the expansion of existing ones.

That will help cut imports into India, the world’s third largest buyer of overseas coal, Swarup said.

India’s coal imports fell 5 percent in October in their fourth straight monthly slide as local output rose fast under the government’s push to open a mine every month, keeping the country on track to become self-sufficient in thermal coal by 2017.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Joseph Radford

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