Work on Deocha Pachami, the second largest coal mine in the world with estimated reserves of 2.1 billion tonnes, will begin “only” after resettlement of displaced families and addressing environmental concerns, said chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna today. The state government will sign an MoU with the Centre in a week for handover of the coal block. A committee headed by state chief secretary Moloy De was formed today to monitor all the aspects of the project and an expert committee would be set up for conducting an impact assessment study.

“We will proceed with the project cautiously after taking care of every aspect from resettlement to environment. There are about 395 families of which 40 per cent are tribals in Deocha Pachami. “We will have to take everyone into confidence and then arrange for proper rehabilitation of all these people before going ahead with the project,” said Miss Banerjee after a high-level meeting in the state secretariat. She said that there was nothing to be afraid of as the government “will take care of the families and until a rehabilitation is arranged the state will not proceed with the project”.

First the technical issues would be addressed and then the stakeholders would be taken into confidence, she added. Miss Banerjee said that an upfront refundable deposit of Rs 50 crore has to be made to the Central government in this regard. Miss Banerjee said the coal block would bring in investments to the tune of Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 crore over a period of time and has the potential to generate nearly one lakh employment opportunities. “The project will generate income, jobs, resources and earnings for both the Central government and the state government.

It will usher in rapid economic development in the area. This is a big project that can supply coal for the next 100 years. It would take about five years to start commercial production,” Miss Banerjee said. Of the total project area of 11,222.50 acres, the state government will have to acquire 9,000 acres. There are 2,000 acre of vested land and forest cover is on five per cent of the project land. We will do the needful for afforestation as per laws, Miss Banerjee said.

The West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd has been allotted the Deocha-Pachami block in the south-western part of Birbhum, and the Dewanganj Harinsingha block in the western fringe of the district. The block was earlier allotted to six shareholder states namely West Bengal, Karnataka, Bihar, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh and public sector undertaking Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited. However, barring Bengal the rest exited, questioning its viability.