Beach Minerals

Sep 06 2014


The Beach Sand Minerals [BSM], also called as “Placer Minerals” are classified Geologically as secondary deposits and formed & distributed by the combined action of Ocean currents & strong coastal winds. They are found distributed in parts of Odhisa, Seemandhra, Tamilnadu coasts in the East and Kerala & Maharashtra in the West coast of our country. Depending on the Primary deposits, the minerals content in the beach sand minerals vary. Generally, the sands comprises an assemblage of 6/7 minerals such as – Garnet, Ilmenite, Rutile, Zircon, Sillimanite, Leucoxene[ brown Ilmenite] and Monazite. The monazite content, being genetically associated with Ilmenite, varies from 0.03- 0.08 % in Tamil Nadu coast & 0.08- 2.18% in Kerala coast.


Monazite is a phosphate of Cerium & Yettrium and is the main source of Thorium & Cerium. It contains 7.0- 8.5% of Th02. It is mildly radio-active.




India possesses the World’s largest reserves of Beach sand Minerals, but yet its exploitation is very low [5-6%], when compared to USA, Australia & S. Africa, having only 11- 12% of World’s reserves have an exploitation of over 25%.  Till early 90’s only Public Sector undertakings were permitted to exploit the beach sand minerals, which was very limited. In order to overcome this constraint, the Govt., of India had notified a policy resolution no. 8(1)/ 97-PSU/1422 dated 6th October, 1988, which allows participation of private sector with or without foreign collaboration in the exploitation of beach sand minerals.



The minerals such as Ilmenite, Rutile & Leucoxene, which were earlier grouped as “Prescribed substances”, were delisted by the Department of Atomic Energy vide notification no. S.O 61 [E] dated 20.01.2006, which was made effective from the date of amendment of MMDR Act by the Mines Ministry from 1st January, 2007, whichever occurs earlier.




After the relaxation of the policy on beach sand minerals exploitation, the private sector involvement in beach sand mining & minerals processing has witnessed tremendous development in the development of Infrastructure, generation of employment opportunities, increase in productivity, Foreign exchange earnings etc.,





As per Rule 69, of the Mineral Concession Rules,1960, the minerals Ilmenite, Monazite, Zircon, Rutile, Garnet and Sillimanite are grouped as associated minerals for purposes of Section 6 of the MMDR Act, 1957. The State Government is empowered by the Act to grant leases for all minerals except Mineral oil and coal. In respect of atomic minerals,  the State Government, after securing the approval of the Govt., of India, will grant the mining leases.


Hence the statement that under the MMDR Act, permission to mine all beach sand minerals can be issued only by the Centre and not by the State Governments is totally wrong. Either it has been made due to lack of understanding of the Act & the Rules or in a biased manner.





All the Beach Sand Mineral [BSM] producers have to secure a licence under the Atomic Energy [Radiation Protection] Rules, 2004 for all their mineral processing facilities from the Atomic Energy Board {AERB}, Mumbai, who inspect the units annually.


The AERB makes annual inspections of all the facilities, mines & refilled pits. They carry out,


[i] Measuring the % of Monazite in the raw sand from the mines;

[ii] Monitoring Air quality & Radiation levels in the units; stockpiles;

mine sites & refilled pits.

[iii] Waste disposal/ Silica tailings records.

[iv] Dose calculation records.

[v] Instruments calibration.


Each mineral processing unit is instructed to have 3/ 4 well executives, trained by the AERB for  Radiological monitoring in the processing plants, maintenance of records, safe disposal of monazite rich tailings as per the guidelines of the AERB and educate the Staff & workers in handling monazite rich tailings.




             Monazite, being non-magnetic & non- conductive, the bulk of it gets separated with silica tailings in the pre-concentration[initial] stage itself. Minor quantities associated with Ilmenite & Garnet get separated in the respective units. As per the AERB’s guideline, if these Silica tailings contain < 5% of Monazite they have to be mixed and dumped in the mining pits for refilling. If the Monazite content is > 5%, but the quantity of tailings generated is comparatively less, then it has to be stored in trenches & topped with silica rich sand to bring down the radiation level to the background level. All the lessees, are complying the same and store the monazite accordingly.


Item 4[f] of the Resolution of the DAE, Mumbai dated 6th October,1998 [ published in the GOI Gazette Ext ordinary, dated 16.10.1998] reads as follows—


“If Monazite is produced in the process of exploitation of Beach sand Minerals, such Monazite shall be disposed of by the entity concerned at its cost, in accordance with the instructions of the AERB.”


The DAE in their letter no: 4/5 [3] 2008- PSU /2474 dated 08.04.2008 have stated that Monazite & other prescribed substances can be mined & handled by the Indian companies after securing a licence from the DAE. Mining leases are granted by the State Governments.


The Govt.,of Tamil Nadu have granted a mining lease to a private firm in Madurai for Uranium associated with Graphite, Quartz & Feldspar in January,1961 with the prior consent of the Ministry of Mines and the Dept.,of  Atomic Energy also agree for the grant.


These references will clearly show that the State Governments are empowered to grant mining leases for all prescribed minerals including Monazite with the prior approval of the Govt.,of India. There is no violation or deviation from the provisions of the MMDR Act & the MCR.


There is no necessity to handover the Monazite rich tailings to the IREL or AERB once in three months as reported.


Thus no private lessee is attempting to recover the Monazite because of its very low % in the sand; strict surveillance and radiation hazards. Any allegation that the private operators are illegally exporting Monazite has no basis. Being radio-active, none will risk in handling large consignments. Equally no country would be keen to import, when they are fully aware of environmental hazards. Moreover India lacks in the latest technology to extract ‘Rare Earths’ as well as use them in the manufacture of high end machines.


It may pertinent to mention two Official letters –


  1. The VOC Port Trust, Tuticorin, on 8th April, 2013 have stated that “ No ship has previously arrived to V.O. Chidambaranar Port for export of minerals Uranium, Thorium and Monazite”.


  1. The Secretary to the Govt., of Tamil Nadu, Industries department in his letter dt. 24.11.2004 to the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Mines, N.Delhi, has also confirmed that, no monazite is either legally or unauthorisedly moved out of this country.


Therefore there is no semblance of chance of any Monazite being taken out of this country by any means by anybody.


The above letters will prove beyond any doubt about the status of Monazite export.


The following two statements made in the blog need rebuttal.


[a]  The Govt., of Tamil Nadu have issued mining licences to private companies for mining Monazite.







There are no mining leases exclusively for Monazite. It might have been included as an ‘associated mineral’ in the leases already granted for Garnet or/ & Ilmenite, with the consent of the Ministry of Mines, N. Delhi.


[b] The State Govt., have fixed a Royalty of Rs.125/- per tonne for Monazite.


Royalty is being fixed under the MMDR Act by the Parliament only. As per Sec 9 (1) of the Act, it is payable only when the mineral is removed from the lease area either for sale or for use in captive industry. Hence there is no truth in the statement that the royalty for Monazite has been fixed by the TN Govt.,


The report has been attempted without verifying the ground truths; lack of understanding of the provisions of the Act & the Rules, besides quoting a few retired Officials’ observations out of context. The report seems to be made in haste and in a prejudicial manner to damage the fair name of the Govt., of Tamil Nadu and highly motivated to bring down the reputation of the mining lessees of BSM in the State purely borne out of ill will & business rivalry.


There have been no violations in the handling of the Monazite in Tamil Nadu. The present enquiry initiated by the State Govt., has nothing to do with the recovery or export of Monazite.


The joint inspection of the mining leases of beach Sand minerals and various records by a team of Officials of the Indian

Bureau of Mines, Atomic Minerals Division & the Department of Geology & Mining, Tamil Nadu during June, 2009, has revealed that there have been no violations and deviations in the observations of the ACT & the Rules.


 In conclusion, the allegations of large scale exploitation and export of Monazite for its Thorium content are fictitious and are made to create a negative impact and as a sensational news in the media.


  1. India have rich heavy mineral resources and it have to explore and export for bring more revenue from overseas,thenonly our Indian money value become high.

  2. Can u please explain then why u do not mine Monozite, which is said to be rich in Tuticorin, Kanyakumari coast? Besides Monozite from which placer mineral, thorium could be extracted? Can u also clarify whether dumping of Monozite while mining is a national waste?

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