Kolkata: The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) once again seems to be putting the brakes on exploration activity for identifying new, mineable coal reserves, which are crucial to the country’s rising coal demand.

AK Debnath, chairman and managing director, Central Mine & Planning Design Institute (CMPDI), told FE that the Planning Commission has set a target of prospecting 15 lakh metres per annum by the end of the 12th Plan Period ending 2017, against the current annual average of 3 lakh metres. Accelerating such activity would require digging more bore holes — at least 15 for every sq km. But the MoEF is sticking to its benchmark of allowing digging an average 1-1.5 bore holes per sq km, which would make the target impossible.