MAKE IN INDIA: POSSIBILITIES AND CHALLENGES IN BEACH SAND MINERALS SECTOR

MAKE IN INDIA: POSSIBILITIES AND CHALLENGES IN BEACH SAND MINERALS SECTOR

By SWAMYDAS. B.Sc., B.Tech (IIT)., M.S. (USA).,

Chief Adviser and Technical Expert- Beach Minerals Producers’ Association

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

Beach Sand Minerals (BSM) generally consists of ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet, monazite, leucoxene and sillimanite coexisting with each other. Most of these minerals occur together, their individual contents varying from deposit to deposit.  The major mineral in most of these deposits is ilmenite. The BSM and their derivatives find applications in day to day use as well as strategic and high tech applications. The exploitation of BSM in India is not in consonance with the reserves. The Production to Reserve Ratio (PRR) was less than 0.001% in the last decade of the last century and improved to 0.0018 during the year 2015 due to the opening of this sector to wholly Indian owned companies. It is unfortunate that this BSM sector does not receive the desired attention of the central and state governments due to the following facts:

  1. The revenue to the governments is negligible compared to those from oil, coal, iron ore and limestone.
  2. The strategic importance of these minerals is not explicitly visible.
  3. The huge employment generation potential is not properly recognized.
  4. The downstream industries possibilities are not recognized.

If proper recognition and encouragement is given by the central and state governments for BSM sector, it will turn out to be a successful “MAKE IN INDIA” programme. This paper presents in detail the necessity to concentrate on the BSM sector in the interest of the development of our nation.

 

  1. BSM RESERVES

Our country is endowed with 35% of the world reserves of Beach Sand Minerals. The exploration in our country had covered only around 2000 km of our coastal stretch out of the country’s coastline of around 6000 km. If the balance coastline is also explored, our country’s share of the BSM will be enormous. The detailed world and Indian reserves estimate is given below:

Sl. No. Mineral World Reserves in millon tonnes Indian Reserves in million tonnes Percentage of world reserves
1. Ilmenite 1400 593 35
2. Sillimanite NA 226 NA
3. Garnet 420 168 40
4. Zircon 243 34 14
5. Monazite 17 12 71
6. Rutile 310 31 10

 

  1. HISTORY OF BSM SECTOR IN INDIA

The beach sand mining in India is more than one century old. The first mining was started in 1908 when the beach sand containing monazite was mined and taken to European countries from the erstwhile Travancore state. Subsequently, processing facilities were set up to separate the minerals like monazite, ilmenite etc. in Manavalakurichi presently in Tamilnadu and Chavara, Kerala. Till 1965, only private players and some semi-government companies were in the field and the production and export was around 3.00 lakh tpa of ilmenite. During 1950, government of India had set up a public sector company, Indian Rare Earths Ltd., (IREL) under Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), to process the monazite being produced in the country to produce rare earth compounds and thorium concentrate. Due to the vagaries in the world market for ilmenite, the operations of the mineral plants used to be suspended when there was no market for ilmenite. This had adversely affected the operations of IREL monazite processing facility for want of feed material. To overcome the shortage of monazite feed material, the government decided to take over all the shut down beach sand operations and accordingly, the assets were taken over by IREL along with the mineral concessions and after suitable modifications, the plants started operations from 1969 and started production of ilmenite, rutile, zircon, monazite, garnet and leucoxene.

After taking over of the private industries in 1965 by IREL, IREL and Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML), a Kerala government enterprise were the only organizations in the field of BSM mining. Till 1998, these two companies were producing only around 4.00 lakh tonnes per annum of these minerals. This amounted to a growth of only around 30% from 1965 to 1998 (a period of 33 years). Recognising the potential for titanium, zirconium and rare earth minerals in the world, the GOI had decided to open this sector to private companies in 1998, since the production to reserve ratio was less than 0.001% in 1998 and the government was not in a position to invest in BSM mining.  The BSM sector was opened to private sector based on the National Mineral Policy 1991 and the recommendation by DAE after elaborate discussions with stakeholders like private garnet mining companies, CAPEXIL, representatives of the concerned departments in state and central governments with the sole intention of improving the production to reserve ratio. The primary intention of the Beach Sand Minerals Policy, 1998 and the subsequent deliberations in 2006 on the BSM sector privatisation were to bring in wholly owned Indian companies in the BSM production and foreign investment for value addition. The public sector players are in the field for almost half a century with no substantial increase in the exploitation of the BSM reserves. In the “Policy on Exploitation of Beach Sand Minerals” by Department of Atomic Energy in 1998, it is specified that “Considering the growing demand for these minerals and/or their value added products in the domestic as well as international markets and the potential available in the country, setting up of new plants for exploitation of the deposits in fresh locations would be in the interest of the country. However, this is highly capital intensive and it may not be possible for only the PSUs (both Central and State owned) operating in this field to set up the new plants on their own. It is therefore, necessary to allow private sector to set up such plants within the framework of some broad guidelines”. It is relevant to note that, private companies only can bring in latest technologies, available in India and elsewhere in the world and also the required capital for expansion of this industry both for mining as well as for value addition. Though the policy came in 1998, it took almost another five years for the private sector to engage fully and start operations. After opening up of the industry to private sector for mining and production of all minerals other than monazite, the annual production BSM in India had gone up and the present PRR is 0.0018 amounting to 80% increase in the sector in twelve years.

 

BSM AND THEIR DERIVATIVES AND APPLICATIONS

  1. ILMENITE: Ilmenite is an iron titanium oxide mineral with chemical composition of FeTiO3. The products derived from ilmenite are mainly titanium dioxide pigment, titanium metal and titanium dioxide nanomaterials. Titanium dioxide pigment finds use in paints and coatings, plastics, paper, ink, fiber and as specialty chemical. Being a non-toxic and biologically inert material, TiO2 find use in a range of consumer applications such as foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Titanium metal finds application in aerospace, defense, consumer products and other industrial applications due to their high corrosion resistant properties. In addition many new applications are also emerging for the metal. Titanium nanomaterials finds wide spread applications in dye-sensitized solar cells, low-power markets to large scale applications and as an arsenic removal agent in water treatment facilities, cancer treatment and cement that absorbs pollution.
  2. RUTILE: Rutile is also iron titanium oxide with a titanium dioxide content of around 95%. Rutile is used as an important constituent of welding flux. Rutile is also used as a feed material to produce TiO2 pigment.
  3. ZIRCON: Zircon is zirconium silicate with a chemical formula ZrSiO4. Zircon finds applications as ceramics, foundry and investment casting, refractories, fused zirconia, zirconium chemicals and zirconium metal. Ceramic applications include the manufacture of floor and wall tiles, sanitary ware and table ware. Steel production and glass production are the main refractory sectors that consume zircon and zirconia based refractories. Fused zirconia finds use in refractories, abrasives and ceramic pigments. Zirconium chemical are used in gemstones, paper coatings, cosmetics, paint driers, antiperspirants, printing inks, paints and catalysts. Zirconium metal has application in chemical process industry as structural material in heat exchangers, reboilers, evaporators, reactor vessels, pumps, condensers, valves and piping. Another major use of zirconium metal is for making zircalloy tubes for holding the uranium pellets for nuclear plant feed.
  1. GARNET: Garnet is iron aluminum silicate with the chemical formula Fe3Al2 (SiO4)3. Garnet is a good abrasive and as such it is used for sand blasting and water jet cutting. It is also used in filtration, for glass polishing and lapping.
  1. SILLIMANITE: Sillimanite is aluminum silicate with the chemical formula Al2SiO5. Sillimanite is used as a refractory which are used in cement, ceramics, glass making, metal smelting, refinery and treatment, tar distillation, coal carbonization, chemical manufacture and iron foundries.
  2. MONAZITE: Monazite is a phosphate of rare earths, thorium and uranium. Monazite contains around 67% rare earths elements, which is comparatively higher to other sources of rare earths available elsewhere in the world. By chemical processing of monazite, individual rare earth compounds and further value added products can be produced and they find applications in TV sets, cancer treatment drugs, camera lenses, battery electrodes, hydrogen storage, catalytic converters, coloured glass and steel production, super strong magnets, welding goggles, lasers, microphones, electric motors of hybrid automobiles, nuclear reactor control rods, fluorescent glass, shielding in nuclear reactors, fuel cells, sonar systems, commercial lighting, hard disk drives, transducers, signal amplification for fiber optic cables, high temperature super conductors, petrol refining, LED light bulbs and integrated circuit manufacturing. These rare earth elements exist in our everyday life being present in automobiles, bicycle, cosmetics, cell phones, solar panel, stationary materials, watches, wind turbines, aerospace, ornaments, tooth brush and paste, toilet seat, soap, clothing, trains, and supplementary tablets. Apart from rare earths, uranium and thorium will also be produced, while processing monazite, which are the present and future nuclear fuels.

 

  1. PRESENT STATUS OF THE BSM SECTOR

The production and demand figures for the mineral products and value added product of ilmenite for the year 2015 is given below:

Mineral Indian production

(tonnes)

Indian Demand

(tonnes)

Worldwide production

(tonnes)

Worldwide demand

(tonnes)

Average Growth rate / year
Garnet 7,00,000 15,000 12,00,000 12,50,000 5-8%
Ilmenite 11,00,000 1,00,000 2,10,00,000 2,30,00,000 3-5%
Zircon 40,000 80,000  15,50,000  15,40,000 3-5%
Rutile 25,000 45,000  9,75,000  9,75,000 5-8%
Tio2 pigment 50,000 220,000 2,50,000 2,50,000 3-5%

From the above figures, it can be seen that India can really improve its position in the world market as a prominent player in BSM minerals. India can become a dominant player in rare earths if proper exploitation of the mineral monazite is taken up in the country. At present, being a 95% producer of rare earth elements and REE based products in the world, China is imposing impracticable conditions and even denying supply to countries like Japan. If proper policies are brought in our country to produce and value add the monazite mineral, in addition to becoming the second largest supplier of rare earths to the world, strategic international relations can be built up.

It is pertinent to note that due to the imposition of impracticable conditions by the producing countries in the world and also due to the increasing prices of titanium, zirconium and rare earth products, efforts are on to find alternates for these products. Presently, all these are very much sought after commodities as they find wide utilization in everyday life. It is worth mentioning that technological development is moving on a very fast pace and whatever material is important today may not be required after a few years. The titanium, zirconium and rare earths, which are important materials today may not be relevant after fifty to hundred years. The rare earths came into prominence during the last two decades and before that RE was not considered important.  Hence it becomes necessary for India to step up the exploitation of the BSM mining to reach the international PRR of 0.01, as otherwise India will miss the chance and the BSM deposits may be buried under the earth forever without any utility.

  1. POSSIBILITIES OF “MAKE IN INDIA” IN THE BSM SECTOR

The world wide PRR is around 0.01% and if this PRR is achieved in India, the life of the identified deposits will last for hundred years. The elements like titanium, zirconium, rare earths, thorium and uranium are strategic minerals and they occur in the BSM. Hence, in the national interest, we have to reap the benefits of these materials when they are in high demand as otherwise these materials may become redundant.

It is worth mentioning that even though IREL was the major player in this sector for the last fifty years, they do not have any substantial value addition facilities in place. IREL’s ilmenite value addition project in Orissa, zircon value addition project in Tamilnadu and the monazite value addition project in Kerala were closed down due to technical problems and mounting losses.

If the country plans to exploit the BSM deposits at a PRR of 0.01, which is prevalent in the world today and go for value addition of ilmenite, zircon and monazite, the country will benefit enormously. The likely production figures of the minerals by achieving the PRR of 0.01 is given below:

MINERAL ANNUAL PRODUCTION IN TONNES
Ilmenite 44,00,000
Sillimanite 13,00,000
Garnet 10,00,000
Zircon 2,00,000
Monazite 72,000
Rutile 1,80,000

Note: The above figures are based on the recovery figures of 75% for ilmenite and 60% for other minerals from the mine to the production.

In the case of achieving the above figures of annual production and 100% value addition of ilmenite, zircon and monazite are implemented in the country, the nation will be benefitted to a great extent as indicated below:

India can meet a substantial quantum of TiO2, zirconium chemicals and the rare earth elements required in the world and likely to become a strategic player in these fields. If the country proceeds in this direction, there will be additionally around 250 tonnes of uranium and also around 6000 tonnes of thorium oxalate per annum will be available  for the present and future nuclear fuel requirement of the country. This level of activity also will have the following financial and social benefits to the country.

  1. Direct employment:           3,00,000 persons
  2. Indirect employment : 5,00,000 persons
  3. Total Capital employment : 1,21,000 crores.
  4. Total Turn Over(annual):      90,700 crores
  5. Revenue to the governments:     29,600 crores per annum

In addition, India will become a prominent player as the exporter of TiO2, rare earth products and zirconium chemicals.

  1. CHALLENGES TO THE BSM SECTOR:

 MMDR Act Amendment, 2015: Recently a notification was gazette by the MOM bringing in minerals like garnet and sillimanite under the category of Atomic Minerals, even though, DAE had removed all the beach sand minerals other than monazite from the prescribed substances, required for atomic energy. This will definitely have a negative impact on the development of the BSM sector.

  • The present central government is taking proactive action for the industrial development of the nation. Mining is one of the main sectors contributing to the nation’s economy. With an intention to boost mining sector, the GOI came with the MMDR Act Amendment, 2015, followed by the sector-wise rules for implementation. Prior to this amendment, there was only one Minerals Concession Rules. However, now separate rules are framed for different sectors and one of them is Atomic Minerals Concession Rules, 2016(AMCR), which is for the first time in the history of India. The following are the salient features of this new rule:

 1. The AMCR stipulates that if the monazite content in the Total Heavy Minerals (THM) is equal to or more than 0.75%, then the deposits will be reserved for the government companies and even existing mining leases can be cancelled and allotted to government companies

2. It may also be noted that for all atomic minerals other than BSM, the TLV is indicated as a percentage of deposit/ Ore where as for BSM it is a percentage in THM.

3. This AMCR itself was a new concept and no such rules were existing prior to the MMDR Act Amendment, 2015.

4. If the AMCR is implemented in the present form, almost all the existing private players will have to close down their operations, which will result in huge losses to them and loss of employment to about 50,000 persons in the backward areas of Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh. It will also take the production to reserve to a figure less than that prevalent before opening of the BSM industry to private sector. The entire BSM industry will perish

5. When the draft AMCR was published in April 2016, the concerns of the various stake holders like BSM operators, associations and the government of Tamilnadu, where maximum BSM operations are situated were represented to the Ministry of Mines.  However, none of these concerns were taken note of either by the ministry or other connected departments and on 04-07-2016, at Raipur, the MOM published the AMCR without much consideration of the concern of the stakeholders. During discussions on this in a subsequent session in the mining conclave purely for this purpose, MOM officials present informed that they are totally ignorant about the provisions of the rules and they have come out with the rules as drafted by DAE.

6. The DAE officials, as the author of these rules, must have been available for discussions with the stake holders. MOM officials were neither ready to listen to any of the suggestions made by the BSM producers, nor to organize a meeting with the different stakeholders. It may be noted that, no discussions were held with the stakeholders before finalizing the rules.

7. If these rules are implemented in the present form, the BSM sector may go back to a stage where it was two decades ago and private sector players will neither be interested nor can survive in this industry unless level playing field is provided to them to work.

8. There is not even an application form for mining lease in the AMCR as required in section 10 of the MMDR Act amendment 2015.

9. There are many contradictory clauses in the AMCR which was indicated to MOM at the draft stage itself and yet to be modified.

10. There are many ambiguities in the AMCR.

 7.4 A typical flow chart of the various activities connected with getting a mining lease for BSM is given below:

flowsheet

 

It can be seen from the above flow chart that it takes around 7-8 years for getting a mining lease. This necessitates the requirement of implementing a sinle window clearance process.

 

  1. HOW TO MAKE BSM MINING A “MAKE IN INDIA “ PROGRAMME

 For making the BSM sector as a real “MAKE IN INDIA” programme, the following actions need to be taken by both the state and central government.

 As proposed in the 2011 draft MMDR Bill based on the recommendations of Department of Atomic Energy and the High Level Committee on National Mineral Policy, these minerals may be classified as “Beach Sand Minerals” (Part-C of the first schedule) and a separate “ Beach Sand Minerals Concession Rules may be brought in along with a monazite policy earlier proposed by Department of Atomic energy and then dropped for reasons unknown.

  • Under section 10 A 2 (c), the period for grant of mining lease for the pending mining lease applications, the period may be amended as five years from the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015.
  • To amend the threshold value from 0.75% THM to 5% of ROM as done to other minerals. If this is done, there will be substantial development in the BSM sector. There shall not be any reservation to the government sector as this will be against competition commission guidelines. Both private and public sectors shall be treated equally if the government of India is really serious about implementing the “MAKE IN INDIA” programme in BSM sector.
  • In case the government is really interested in the development of BSM sector, instead of stipulating the TLV for monazite, it shall stipulate a condition of value addition to the minerals as a requirement to issue mineral concessions with a condition to hand over the radioactive materials to Govt., of India or Department of Atomic Energy. Only if the mining concessions are linked to forward integration by making value addition mandatory for issue of mining concessions, the BSM sector can be brought in the “MAKE IN INDIA”
  • There should be a single window approach at the District, State and Central Govt. level for mining, land acquisition, and other related statutory clearances with adequate authority and delegation of powers to take decisions and dispose off quickly all the matters related to BSM mining, so that the lead time can be substantially brought down from the 7-8 years.
  • Presently, mining leases are often given selectively for one or two minerals or for all minerals. Needless to state, such selective leasing is contrary to Mineral Conservation. Hence, necessary modifications are required to be made in the rules to not only include all the suite minerals in the lease deed, but also to incentivize exploitation of as many of them as possible.
  • A stake holders meeting of all existing BSM mining companies, DAE, MOM, the connected departments of both state and central governments may be convened to discuss threadbare all the issues affecting the implementation of “MAKE IN INDIA” programme in this sector.

If the above actions are implemented, India will become a prominent player in BSM mining and also value addition facilities. All the required technical skill and financial capabilities are available with the present and willing private players in the country to make the mining and value addition of BSM deposits a real “MAKE IN INDIA” program. For making BSM mining and value addition of the minerals a “MAKE IN INDIA” program, the private sector is given permission to exploit all the minerals along with value addition of ilmenite, zircon and monazite and to work hand in hand with the government companies as contemplated in the 1998 BSM policy.

  1. CONCLUSION

The first and foremost requirement is to have an open minded discussions with all the stakeholders by the MOM and DAE to look into the negative aspects of these regulations and settle the problems, so that both private and public sector can work hand in hand for the exploitation and value addition of these BSM deposits. If the above mentioned suggestions along with some more genuine requirements of the BSM sector is addressed, the BSM mining sector can really become a “MAKE IN INDIA” programme bringing in valuable foreign exchange to the nation, avoiding foreign exchange outflow, creating jobs to lakhs of people in the underdeveloped sectors in the country, in addition, bringing good revenue both to the state and central governments. This is likely to have a positive impact on the GDP of the nation. This will also provide free nuclear fuels uranium and thorium. The ball is presently with the Government of India to take suitable steps to make necessary changes in the rules for the smooth operation of this sector where private players will have a pivotal role as earlier said, government will not be able to make substantial financial investment.

 

 

 

 

 

‘India not realising potential of rare earth industry’

‘India not realising potential of rare earth industry’

NEW DELHI: The Indian rare earth industry, potentially worth Rs 90,000 crore in annual turnover, lies wasted and underused, according to industry representatives.

As per estimates by experts belonging to the Beach Minerals Producers Association, the rare earth mineral downstream industry can net a capital employment of about Rs 121,000 crore, including Rs 50,000 crore worth of foreign exchange.

Rare earths are a special class of 17 elements that have extensive uses across various industries including computer and IT, clean energy systems, healthcare, defence production, advanced transportation services and many others.

Significant rare earths minerals found in India include ilmenite, sillimanite, garnet, zircon, monazite and rutile, collectively called Beach Sand Minerals (BSM). India has almost 35 per cent of the world’s total beach sand mineral deposits.

Their importance lies in their unique electronic, optical and magnetic characteristics, which cannot be matched by any other metal or synthetic substitute.

However, the industry in India has barely registered momentum.

“In 1998, they started freeing up the industry and in 2006, those minerals were taken off the prescribed substances list and for some reason, they have recently been put back on. So, the country has actually gone backwards. There is no justification,” said Grant Smith, director-overseas operations at V V Minerals. “No one is getting the licences. It has been reserved specifically for PSUs through the DAE (department of atomic energy). So, at the moment, it is only the IndiaRare Earths and the Kerala operations.”

Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IRE) is operating the mineral sands separation plant at Chavara in Kerala to produce some rare earth minerals. Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML), a Kerala state government undertaking, is also carrying out the mining of the beach sands minerals.

These minerals are not literally ‘rare’. They are called so as they tend to occur together in nature as part of the same ore and are difficult to find as standalone minerals. And this is the prime issue with the rare earth mining industry.

Monazite has as one of its constituents thorium and uranium, though in small quantities, these are radioactive elements making monazite a restricted ‘atomic’ mineral.

“There is a perception here in India that monazite is an atomic mineral. It is actually not. Monazite is just a mineral that contains thorium and very very small amounts of uranium. But the major constituent in monazite is rare earth,” said Smith. “In today’s world, China controls over 95 per cent of the rare earth market. India is not realizing any potential. You have to separate the mineral monazite from its constituents. None of the other rare earths have any thorium in them. They are associated in the ore body but not in the actual mineral.”

C Swamydas, chief advisor for V V Minerals, explained how proposals have been given where they are willing to take on all the cost of setting up the plant, and even pay to let the atomic energy department put its own people process monazite. “We shall give the thorium (produced) to the government for free. They can store it for future use.”

Thorium is the basis of India’s three-stage nuclear power programme, which utilises thorium as fuel for the third stage i.e. the advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR).

Smith also stressed on the versatility of rare earth minerals. “It is a big investment. But in the overall size of the market, it is not that high. This is about downstream manufacturing, it is about building computer hardware, hand tools, air conditioning units…it is about building the end-user products,” he said. “It is not about the element itself. It is about improving the manufacturing base of India.”

 

Notification on beach sand minerals puts private miners in a fix

Notification on beach sand minerals puts private miners in a fix

The government notification that any beach sand mining lease containing more than 0.75% monazite in the total heavy minerals (THM) would only be allocated to public sector firms has put private miners in a fix. Of the 81 extant beach sand mineral (BSM) leases, 72 are with the private sector.

The government notification that any beach sand mining lease containing more than 0.75% monazite in the total heavy minerals (THM) would only be allocated to public sector firms has put private miners in a fix. Of the 81 extant beach sand mineral (BSM) leases, 72 are with the private sector.

“We believe that there is no scientific basis for arriving at such a threshold limit value (TLV) as most of these minerals occur together as placer deposits, their individual contents varying from deposit to deposit,” Beach Mineral Producers Association (BMPA) has said in a recent letter addressed to mines minister Piyush Goyal.

BSM comprises ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet, sillimanite, leucoxene and monazite. Monazite is found in all BSM deposits but with varying quantity in different places. Monazite contains 0.3% uranium and 8-10% thorium, which are atomic elements. The remaining are rare earth elements which are non-atomic. BSM has various uses, including engineering applications and in the aerospace industry.

The Atomic Minerals Concession Rules (AMCR), 2016, notified in July, stipulated that if monazite content is more than 0.75% in the THM, the lease should go only to the government sector firms. Even, in the existing leases, where the threshold limit value (TLV) is above 0.75%, the lease holder has to get the government’s approval to continue operations.

The BMPA felt that the TLV fixed at 0.75% in the AMCR defies logic as Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) had earlier indicated that in most of the BSM deposits so far identified, monazite content is closer to 0.75% and above.

“We want a level-playing field to work hand-in-hand with the public sector for maximum utilisation of the BSM resources in the country and producing all the downstream value added products. This will elevate India to the status of a global producer of beach sand minerals,” VV Minerals director V Subramanian said. V V Minerals is the largest firm among the private sector.

Despite India having 35% of BSM reserves of the world, its production to reserve ratio was less than 0.001% with only public sector companies working on this sector till 1998, as compared to foreign countries.

Opening up of this sector in 1998 for private participation has helped production and exports of heavy minerals manifold from a meagre R35 crore in 1998 to R4,500 crore in 2015. There were only 10 mining leases in 1998.

Link : http://www.financialexpress.com/economy/notification-on-beach-sand-minerals-puts-private-miners-in-a-fix/404273/

The world’s largest alluvial garnet mine enters production phase in the Red Centre

The world’s largest alluvial garnet mine enters production phase in the Red Centre

Harts Range Garnet Mine, which is located approximately 200 kilometres from Alice Springs, has reached a major milestone after reaching its production phase.

Australian Abrasive Minerals commenced exploring for garnets in early-2010 and found the world’s largest alluvial deposit of garnet, which is used industrially in blast cleaning, water jet cutting and various other mining applications.

Chief executive Robert Brand said the Harts Range project was a huge win for the surrounding local communities, as the mine became a major source for the global garnet market.

“This is the only garnet mine in the Northern Territory, but more significantly it’s only the second garnet mine in Australia, the other one is in Western Australia.

“There’s only five major garnet mines in the world and the other three are located in India, so this is a significant mine for the worldwide garnet industry.”

“It’s unique, it’s valuable, it serves a good opportunity for Indigenous employment, it makes a significant economic contribution to the local region and that will go on for a long time.”

A pioneering project for the Territory

Mr Brand said the Harts Range Garnet Mine was the first mine to be developed in the southern part of the Territory in more than 30 years.

He estimated the Harts Range Garnet reserve would have a mine life of at least 29 years at full production and presented many export opportunities.

“This particular mine, similar to other garnet mines around the world, is characterised by very long life mines that keep producing for a long time,” he said.

“There’s a considerable upside on that, there is more mineral available on our mineral lease that will support a mine site for a further 30 years.

“One third of garnet production is consumed within Australia and two thirds is exported principally to the United States and also to Europe.”

Indigenous employment opportunities

Mr Brand said there would be significant employment opportunities for the Indigenous communities surrounding the Harts Range Garnet Mine.

“The mine is within four kilometres of the township of Harts Range [and] it’s approximately two hours drive by road from Alice Springs, therefore we operate a drive-in, drive-out operation whereby all of our workforce will be sourced from around the region,” he said

“At the moment one third of the workforce employed at the mine site is Indigenous labour and we’re quite keen to see those ratios are maintained.

“We’ve conducted, in the last two months, intensive training for the local Indigenous employees and they are very supportive of what we’re trying to do.

“I think there’s a good endeavour for both sides to make this a success.”

Local economic benefits

Mr Brand added there would be economic benefits for local contractors, suppliers and small businesses.

“As well as employment we source local contractors to do work for us,” he said.

“We have local suppliers and service providers that provide us with goods and services for maintenance and ongoing operation of the plant.

“And our village will be using the local general store at Harts Range, for example, for all of its purchases and that will have a direct impact on the local community.

“The most important thing about this mine is [that] it’s sustainable for the long term and there’s benefits that will continue for a long time to come.”

Link : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-29/harts-range-garnet-mine-goes-into-production-in-the-red-centre/7887932