Beach sand mining to come under ‘Make in India’
Saturday 22 August 2015 12:03 PM IST
New Delhi: Black-sand mining in Kollam could be included under the central government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. The move is based on a project plan submitted by the state government to develop value-added mineral-soil industries in the Chavara coast. The state would have to ensure availability of mineral soil and cooperation from people and local organisations in the area.
The state government has proposed plans to enhance current production levels and make the industry more productive. It is not averse to the idea that mining be entrusted with the public sector completely, while product diversification and value enhancement be entrusted to the private sector.
It was decided to include the project under the ‘Make in India’ initiative following discussions made by ministers Shibu Baby John and N K Premachandran with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The project would go ahead only after considering the interests and opinion of the people in the area.
The central government is interested in the project because of positive inputs from studies conducted by the central atomic department that has hinted at immense possibilities using sand mined from Chavara. The mineral sands in the area are composed of more than 60 per cent Ilmenite, which works out to a total of about eight crore tonnes having a market value of about Rs1.42 lakh crore. The 76 lakh tonnes of Rutile deposits is worth about Rs1.12 lakh crore and the 1.27 crore tonnes of Zircon is worth about Rs1.80 lakh crores. In the Chavara beach alone, the worth of rare minerals is about 4.52 lakh crore.
Currently, Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) and Kerala Minerals and Metals are not able to conduct mining operations effectively in the region. If production is ramped up to five lakh tonnes a year, value-added industries would have bigger scope. The IREL factory in Chavara produces two lakh tonnes of Ilmenite, which is 15-20 per cent of capacity.
Uses of mineral sand
Q grade Ilmenite, which is considered to have the highest quality and purity, is abundant in Chavara. When Ilmenite production is increased, import of Titanium Dioxide can be reduced. The by-product, Iron Oxide, can be used in the steel industry.
While the requirement of Titanium dioxide is two lakh tonnes in the nation per year, its production is a mere 40,000 tonnes as of now. If sufficient quantities are made available, about Rs 4,000 crore can be saved each year.
Rate metal Titanium can be produced from ‘Q’ grade Ilmenite. The metal, which is many times stronger than steel, is most used in aerospace industries. Production of about 50,000 tonnes per year is optimum.
The Tsunami had destroyed the industry. After the Tsunami struck, the percentage of dense metals in the beach dropped to 24 per cent from 54 per cent. IREL could no more depend on beach mining exclusively for its needs.
The challenge now is lack of land and since leasing land is difficult, authorities might have to purchase land. Considering density of population and land prices, a master plan that takes into consideration the social and economic interests of the society has to be evolved to take the initiative ahead.