POINTS BY BEACH MINERALS PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION TO FIMI FOR SPECIFIC FOCUS ON BEACH SAND MINERALS SECTOR FOR CONSIDERATION OF NITI AYOG’S WORKING GROUP RELATED TO MINERALS SECTOR .
The Beach Sand Minerals (BSM) occur together and consist of ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, zircon, garnet, sillimanite and monazite. mining of BSM in India is more than one hundred years old. BSM occur as placer deposits along the costal stretch of our country are the sources of titanium, zirconium, thorium and rare earths in the country. India presently imports titanium, zirconium and rare earths and components made of rare earth elements (REEs). The individual mineral contents vary from location to location. India has 35% of the world reserves of these minerals. Despite the abundant reserves, known for more than one century, the production to reserve ratio of the country is a meagre 0.0018 against the global PRR of 0.01. Developing this sector therefore will give a strong focus in the development of a “NEW INDIA”.
The government of India introduced the “Policy on Beach Sand Minerals” in 1998, pursuant to National Mineral Policy in 1991, as a positive step, opening up the sector to private participation. The delisting of the titanium and zirconium bearing minerals from the list of prescribed substances with a recommendation to the ministry of mines(MOM) to remove these from the list of atomic minerals vide S.O. 61(E) dated 18-01-2006 with effect from 01-01-2007 or from the date of amendment to the MMDR Act, whichever is earlier gave further thrust.
Unfortunately, the MMDR Amendment Act 2015 did not take cognizance of these recommendations and instead took the retrograde step of including even garnet and sillimanite as Atomic minerals which were never in the list of schedule minerals or Atomic Minerals.
The introduction of AMCR 2016 unilaterally without discussion with stake holders restricting private sector participation by introduction of threshold value and reservation to public sector which denies a level playing field and annuls the policy of 1998 was another retrograde step by the MOM. The fixing of threshold value as 0.75% of monazite in THM is irrational as thorium content of monazite is only 8% which translates to 0.06% of thorium in THM. Putting the future of the BSM mining in the country based on the threshold value denies the opportunity to extract and produce the rare earths the content of which is 65% in the monazite mineral and the development of other associated strategic minerals.
AMCR 2016 restricts exploration by private entities. This contradicts the MMDR Act which permits private sector to carry out prospecting and is against the principle of natural justice.
The recently amended MMDR Act has a provision for reservation to public sector companies especially the creamy layers. Such reservation denies a level playing field to private sector companies especially and is opposed to the very spirit of the 1998 policy which encouraged and invited private sector investment in the beach minerals sector. This provision will totally hamper the growth of the BSM mining in the country
SUGGESTIONS TO MOVE FORWARD:
- Necessary legislative changes to remove BSM from the category of atomic minerals from part B of schedule of MMDR Act and categorise them under a separate part C as envisaged in the draft MMDR Act 2011.
- Private sector companies also may be permitted in mining, separation and further processing of all minerals including monazite by removing the restrictions based on threshold value limits. Suitable safeguards for handing over the thorium and uranium values to government/ nominated agency may be devised.
- India has 70% of world monazite reserves of the world, but imports 100% of its needs of rare earth and rare earth based components presently. Rare earths are strategic and critical materials needed by mankind in everyday living apart from strategic uses in magnets, aerospace, medical, clean technologies, automobiles and electronics. Development of the rare earth production business in India will not only make India self sufficient, but also spin off several downstream manufacturing businesses creating a platform for capital investment, employment creation under the “Make In India” program.
- It is a known fact that China controls over 95% of world’s rare earth supply and total dependence on China by the world is undesirable. Consequently, at present developed nations of the world are looking for alternates and substitutes for REEs. Now is the opportune moment for India to focus on rare earths production and become a leading player in REEs as otherwise India’s REE sources may loose relevance in course of time.
- If private sector is given a level playing field in the BSM sector and India can expand to achieve the PRR of 0.01, and value add all minerals and develop down stream industries utilising the value added products, it is estimated that such a growth in this sector would attract capital investment of over 1.00 lakh crores and create job opportunities for over a million people in India.
- Review the Reservation as per 17A of MMDR Act to Public Sector Units.
- If auction route is to be adopted, there it must be preceded by a techno-economic shortlisting of the interested applicants.
- Considering the “zero waste” principle, 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.
- Most of the mining projects are not materialising due to want of Forest Clearance. Some of the areas covered under Reserved Forest require relook and denotification and if the mineral rich areas are not biologically rich, the same shall be considered for denotification.
- Blanket restrictions may be removed and permission to mine the deposits should be allowed in ecologically sensitive areas, except where scientific studies and recommendations of experts in the field indicate restrictions to be imposed if any, as also the specific precautions to be taken to fully protect the Environment, including endangered/ scheduled species of Flora and Fauna like the Olive Ridley Turtles during their annual breeding visits.
- As in vogue in developed countries, mining of BSM deposited regularly in the intertidal zone shall be allowed.
- In order to encourage exports, no export duty shall be levied for any BSM products.