The government, on Friday, said the auction of explored coal blocks may take place either by December or the beginning of the next year.
"The auction of explored coal blocks is likely to be undertaken in December or by January 2014," Coal Secretary S K Srivastava said at a CII conference here.
"A 'letter of comfort' from the Ministry of Environment ~~amp;amp; Forests would be given to the successful bidder," he added.
He further said that a pilot project was being undertaken by the government to draft the modalities of bidding documents for selection of mine developers and operator (MDO) for certain mines of the PSU firm.
Coal India Ltd (CIL) has already allocated one block for the pilot, he added.
MDO is a concept wherein a coal block owner contracts entire operations to a third party that takes responsibility of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, mining, developing and operating the mine by investing in it.
On missing files pertaining to coal block allocations, the Secretary said: "We have been given two weeks time and we have got the revised list through the Attorney General.... We are taking all measures to locate wherever the documents could be available."
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had said last month that the coal block auction is likely to be held in the next two months. Officials had earlier said the number of blocks to be put on auction were yet to be finalised.
According to reports, at least four blocks were expected to be put on auction in the first phase.
The Coal ministry has started groundwork to auction coal blocks after receiving provisional clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which is understood to have issued a 'comfort letter', giving provisional green clearance for the coal blocks but without guarantee for them.
The Coal Ministry had approached the Environment Ministry for preliminary clearances to secure fair price for the blocks at the auction.