India's coal minister on Friday denied charges that the government had lost $210 billion in revenues by giving away coal deposits instead of selling them through auction.
"There has been no scam. It is all a figment of the media's imagination," minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters in New Delhi.
Jaiswal's comments came a day after The Times of India newspaper quoted a draft report by the national auditor as saying the government extended "undue benefits" to coal companies by awarding 155 coalfields without auction.
The auditor is preparing a report on the allocation of coalfields, but denied that it had finished the study and said the final conclusions could be very different from those detailed in the media.
"If there is no report, not even an interim report, how can there be a scam? Even the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) is saying wrong statements are being made," he said.
The office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a letter from the auditor on Thursday which expressed "great embarrassment" and "very deep anguish" over the leak.
Last year, the auditor said that the mis-selling of mobile phone licences to favour some firms in 2008 cost the treasury up to $39 billion -- causing a huge scandal from which the government is still reeling.
The licenses issued under the sale have since been revoked by the Supreme Court.
The new alleged losses on coalfields stem from the government handing coal deposits to mining companies without a competitive bidding process to raise cash.
Jaiswal said the prime minister had agreed in 2004 in principle to have competitive bidding for the sale of coalfields but the process was taking time due to the complexities involved.
"It is a time-taking process. The task of identifying the coal fields is in itself so huge. We will start the process of auction through competitive bidding soon after finalising the guidelines.
"The guidelines are almost ready and will be in place in the next two to four months," Jaiswal added.