Article About Beach Mineral Policy published in TOI
Jul 06 2016
For Policy Coherence on Beach Sand Mining
It is most unfortunate that myopic policy and dated rules keep the beach sand minerals (BSM) sector hugely constrained and functioning well below potential despite their high and rising strategic and commercial importance. BSM are a group of deposits, namely ilmenite, rutile, zircon, monazite, leucoxene, garnet and sillimanite, found across beaches in peninsular India. But they all continue to be misclassified as “atomic minerals“ in the law, with the result that routine approvals take 7-8 years, with the green signal required from as many as 28 departments both at the Centre and states.Some 65-70% of BSM constitute ilmenite, which yields strong-metal titanium used to make paint and tough metal alloys.
India has about 30% of global reserves of BSM, but the production-to-reserve ratio here has been the lowest in the world at 0.002; the sector was opened up to private sector participation as late as 1998. What is worse, in a back to the future move, the Atomic Minerals Concession Rules, 2016, propose to abruptly restrict BSM mining only for the public sector if the deposits have equal or more than 0.75% monazite. This is draconian and worse.
Thankfully , since 2007, ilmenite, rutile, zircon and leucoxene are no longer officially classified as atomic minerals. Yet, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, has not incorporated the change. This needs to be done pronto. We clearly need proactive regulation and oversight of BSM. There is no reason why , say, the output of ilmenite here remain in the low single digits of global production. A business-like policy framework can result in billions of dollars in output and value-added and give rise to huge employment. Besides, BSM do not require conventional mining, blasting or trenches, etc, as the sand is duly restored.
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