The Indian coal ministry has recieved over 316 applications for the allotment of 17 coal blocks with total estimated reserves of 8.45 billion tonnes.
Of the applications, 235 came from power companies and 38 from mining companies.
"The remaining applications are either incomplete or have been withdrawn," a government official told local media.
In December 2012, the ministry initiated the mine allocation process under the amended provisions of Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act and invited proposals from public sector undertakings (PSU).
Coal blocks on offer include Baisi, Banai, Bhalmunda, Jilga-Barpali and Pachwara South in Jharkhand; Gandbahera-Uhhenia in Madhya Pradesh; Mahajanwadi in Maharashtra; Brahamani, Chandrabila, Kundanali-Laburi, Sarapal-Nuapara and Tentuloi in Odisha; and Deocha-Pachami-Dewanganj-Harinsingha in West Bengal.
The government extended the last date for receipt of applications from 30 January 2013 to 8 February 2013 to state-owned companies, following efforts to make the allotment process more transparent.
In August 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reported that the sale of coalfields without open bidding between 2004 and 2009 cost India $33bn.
As a result, both public sector enterprises and private firms paid less for the coal blocks than they might have otherwise.
"For most of these coal blocks, statutory and environmental permissions have not been given. The Prime Minister's argument that pending change of policy to competitive bidding, allocation was necessary for the growth of GDP is eyewash. None of these coal blocks have contributed to the GDP," CAG said in a statement.
Image: The Indian coal ministry is allotting coal blocks specifically for captive power plants. Photo: Stephen Codrington.