Remove some minerals from atomic list in MMDR Act: Beach miners
By PTI | 22 Nov, 2015, 12.11PM IST
NEW DELH: Beach sand mineral (BSM) industry has sought the exclusion of some minerals from the atomic minerals list in the MMDR Act, saying the move will help create jobs and lead to big forex earnings.
It said that excluding ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene and zircon, used in ceramics and hi-tech applications, from atomic minerals list of the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 2015 will create about 5 lakh jobs and around USD 1.8 billion in foreign exchange earnings .
“They are not used in atomic energy production and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) de-listed them from the list of prescribed substances with effect from January 1, 2007. But they have not been de-listed from the MMDR Act,” VV Minerals Managing Director S Vaikundarajan told PTI.
“Hence, we met Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar recently to request to him to remove ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene and zircon from the list of atomic minerals in the MMDR Act,” he added.
“Such a step has the potential to direct and indirect employment for 5 lakh people and forex earnings to the tune of USD 1.8 billion in the four states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat,” Vaikundarajan.
Another issue that the industry raised was that of Monazite, which contains 0.35 per cent of Uranium and 6-10 per cent of Thorium.
“We urged the government to allow BSM producers to process Monazite, with essential control exercised by the DEA and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. The industry can give the Uranium and Thorium to the government and sell the rare earths, which will generate employment and forex,” he said.
Monazite, a mineral of Thorium and Rare Earth Element (REE) is the only commercial source of Rare Earths in the country at present.
Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMDER), part of DAE carries out exploration, establishment and development of atomic minerals in the country, including Monazite.
Indian Rare Earths, a PSU controlled by DAE, processes Monazite at its Rare Earths Division in Kerala. IREL has been processing Monazite to produce Rare Earths compounds, but in 2004 this was stopped due to lack of market, as materials became available at a much lower cost.
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) vide its letter No. AERB/ITSD/RTI/2008/9104 dated 19.09.2008 informed that “Naturally occurring beach sands along the Southern Coast contain the Radioactive Monazite. Epidemiological studies on the cancer incidence rate carried out in these areas indicate no cases of health problems, cancer or kidney failure in these area which can be attributed to the background radiation levels”.
They have further replied that “Monazite mineral by itself cannot be used as fuel in a Nuclear Reactor”.
For one More question AERB replied that “Epidemiological studies carried out in the Naturally high background radiation areas indicate no cases of cancer or any other abnormalities that can be attributed to the background radiation levels”.
This will establish that the allegation made against Rare Mineral Sand Industry is not true.
Over half a dozen downstream companies will be impacted by the Tamil Nadu Government’s decision to halt mineral sand mining pending an enquiry into allegations of illegal exploitation of the resource.
According to the Mineral Welfare Association representing the industry workers, the ban on mining of beach sand in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli announced by the State Government on September 17 also affects the livelihood of 30,000 families and logistics operations in the Tuticorin Port.
The beach sand is a source of ilmenite and rutile – raw materials for making titanium and titanium dioxide – and garnet used in high-end abrasives. Industrial activity relating to sand blasting, ceramics, paint, cosmetics and welding will be affected by the ban on beach sand mining, according to the association.
Seven industrial units – DCW Ltd, Kilburn Chemicals, Kolmak Chemicals Ltd, Cochin Minerals and Rutile Ltd, Thiruvancore Titanium, Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd and Bala Murugan Chemicals – are dependent on the raw materials, the Association said.
In a representation to the State Government it urged mining to be allowed while investigations continue. If there are irregularities, the companies may then be penalised.
Another option would be to carry out the inspection in one district at a time while allowing others to operate.
Over 1,500 trucks are used for transporting the ore. The operations of the logistics services providers will also be hit by the month-long ban, the association said.
According to the Association, there are over 20 mining companies and lease holders involved in mineral sand mining over an area of 2,300 acres they own and 590 acres of Government land taken on lease. Even the licensed activities have been affected by the ban.
The industry is a strongly regulated one with every truck load of ore needing a permit before it can be moved.
(This article was published on September 22, 2013)