What's common to NTPC, GMR Energy, Shree Cement Ltd and the Railways? These are among hundreds of companies seeking coal supplies from the government for their power, steel and cement projects.

Tata Power, which is hoping to commission its 4,000-mw ultra mega power plant (UMPP) in Mundra early next year, has been dealt a blow by the Indonesian government, which has called for a sharp increase in the price of coal exported out of the country. At current prices of $110 per tonne of coal, the increased cost could set the company back by about $100 million when all five units are up and running.

Despite abundant mining opportunities, India's mineral exploration budget stood below 0.5% of the total world budget of $10.7 billion in 2010, says a study. The global mining industry witnessed new heights in 2008, with the exploration budget touching $12.6 billion.

From pricing to allocation, natural gas is one sector that is always into controversies - and L Mansingh knows it well. The chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, in an interview, shares his views regarding the potential, controversies and pricing of the fuel.

The sharp increase in petrol prices in the past year has revved up demand for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which works out 70% cheaper, and triggered a rush of customers in installing kits to run their cars on the low-cost fuel.

Half a decade after announcing the project, work is yet to begin on Pohang Iron and Steel Co Ltd's (POSCO) proposed 12 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) steel mill in Orissa because of delays in securing regulatory approvals and continuing protests surrounding land acquisition. The project was expected to be India's largest foreign investment at the time of announcement.

Subsidizing the fuel will aggravate the fiscal deficit scenario and give rise to inflationary factors that will affect all and not just the actual users, says Ranbir Singh Butola, chairman of fuel retail market leader Indian Oil Corporation.

Land acquisition problems have forced the country's largest power producer, NTPC to rethink its expansion strategy. The company now plans to use spare land at all its existing plants to put up additional generation units, instead of going in for fresh land acquisition. A capacity of more than 10,000 mw is planned to be added under the new initiative over the next few years.

Mining coal was once a livelihood for villagers in coal-rich states. Now, it is a multi-crore business for the coal mafia. While the mafia pocket crores, villagers get a few hundreds for mining coal illegally while the government gets nothing.

Reversing its earlier stand, a high level government committee said that domestic natural gas users cannot be asked to subsidise costlier imported LNG as pooling of natural gas prices was not feasible. An inter-ministerial panel headed by Planning Commission Member Saumitra Chaudhuri in its draft report a few months back had suggested averaging out price of costlier imported LNG with cheaper domestic gas.