Brief note about India’s Beach Sand Mineral Industries

Beach Minerals

Jul 22 2016

A study completed by the Council on Energy ,Environment and Water ( CEEW)  and  the Department of Science and Technology  have identified twelve critical minerals  that   would significantly contribute to the growth of the manufacturing sector  and  success of the Make in India programme. The critical minerals identified in this study report include Rare earth ( heavy and light ) and others like beryllium , germanium ,rhenium , tantalum  etc which find specialized applications in a range of industries covering aerospace ,automobiles ,camera ,defense ,entertainment systems ,laptops , medical imaging , nuclear energy and smartphones.  These critical minerals would also play a role in nurturing the domestic manufacturing capacity to support the government’s low carbon plans such as the 100GW solar target , faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles, and the national domestic efficient lighting programme.  Dr Arunabha Ghosh , CEO , CEEW has said “ to meet our economic and developmental goals India will need to first focus on domestic exploration of critical minerals .

Significantly , India possesses 35% of the global reserves of Beach Sand Minerals  (BSM) , an assemblage that generally consists of ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet, monazite, leucoxene and sillimanite coexisting with each other.  The major mineral in most of these deposits is ilmenite and the  rare earth minerals occur associated with the monazite.  It is pertinent to note that  until 1998 , this sector was restricted only  to Public sector companies and Indian Rare Earth Limited ( IREL )  was the major player and the production to reserve ratio was a negligible 0.001% compared to global players like Australia with a production to reserve ratio of 0.01%. Realising the potential of the beach sand minerals sector the Department of Atomic Energy ( DAE ) opened up this sector to wholly Indian owned companies which resulted in significant investments  by private sector companies propelling growth in this sector. This resulted in many fold increase in the production of beach sand minerals and the private sector have also invested in value addition to Ilmenite and preliminary works for value addition to Zircon is in progress. Since entry of the private sector , the export value  has substantially increased from Rs 35 crores in 1998 to Rs 4500 crores in 2015 . In 2015 , the production to reserve ratio has improved to 0.0018%  which is an 80% increase.  Out of the 81 mining leases in the BSM sector ,72 leases are with the private sector which amply demonstrates their major participation and significant financial investments  in contributing to the successful growth of this beach sand minerals business in India.

The private sector is keen to expand their business activities to include the rare earth minerals  by developing this valuable resource occurring in the beach sand minerals  and  welcome  the Government’s focus on exploration and development of rare earth minerals. The private sector is willing to collaborate with the CEEW and DST and  participate in the domestic development of these critical rare earth minerals to build our national resource and reduce dependency on imports  for  the valuable materials.

However the  newly introduced Atomic Minerals Concession Rules, 2016, ( which was not there earlier) is draconian and will severely cripple  the private sector business in  BSM industry in the country. The private sector has submitted several representations to the Government and also  to the Honourable Prime Minister  seeking to put in abeyance the implementation of the AMCR 2016 and  requesting the Government to review and  develop a  pragmatic and long term industry friendly policy which will support and maximise private sector participation and contribute to India’s growth as a major global player in the beach sand minerals and rare earth minerals sector. Such a Government initiative will greatly help Find in India these valuable  rare earth minerals  occurring along with the beach sand minerals  and give impetus to  the  Make in India programme .

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