Rama Setu: mining for strategic mineral, monazite

This issue is linked with Rama Setu. Significant quantities of placer deposits of the strategic mineral are in the Setu region along the short coastline close to Kanyakumari, Aluva, Chavara, Manavalankurichi. See GSI map of Tamilnadu minerals. It is disturbing to see politicking as usual on this strategic issue.
This issue is also linked with the ongoing Indo-US nuclear deal with the supercop expecting increased dependence of India’s nuke program on uranium purchases from the nuclear fuel suppliers’ group (instead of using the indigenous, thorium alternative).

This note is about effective retrieval of strategic mineral, monazite. Its importance for the nation’s nuclear programme should be clear. (I hope so; in any case, see

http://www.barc.ernet.in/webpages/about/anu1.htm 

).

The following reports show a disturbing trend after privatisation of mining operations in 2000. Even the CM of Tamilnadu uses the Hindi word (!) dada in relation to the politicking on such a strategic issue. A serious situation, indeed.

Some thoughts to ponder, in national interest. The summary of the news item in Tamil is this: Tata’s titanium project in Sattankulam will be reviewed further. A dada operates ‘garnet’ sands business. Partner parties of DMK seem to be opposed to the Tata project proposal.

What is at stake is not merely titanium or garnet, but building up thorium reserves. The attempts at building a thorium reactor will become redundant if the reserves are allowed to be depleted or desiccated for temporary gains.

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Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) carries out survey, prospecting and exploration of atomic minerals required for the Nuclear Power Programme of the country. The main R&D oriented activities of the Directorate include assessment, evaluation, character-isation, and categorisation of atomic minerals, design and fabrication of radiometric instruments and development of ore extraction flow sheets…

Beach Sand and Off-Shore Investigations

Assessment and evaluation of heavy mineral deposits along coastal tracts in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala was continued.

A potential heavy mineral rich zone was identified near Inayam, Kanya-kumari district, Tamil Nadu, where total heavy minerals (THM) associated with teri sands were of the order of 35%. Preliminary estimation indicated a reserve of 2.2 million tonnes THM with 79% titanium minerals.

Reports/executive summaries on different heavy mineral deposits were prepared and supplied to IREL and private agencies.

Export consignment of over 1,84,000 MT garnet sands and 5000 MT ilmenite pertaining to private entrepreneurs and over 1,39,800 MT ilmenite and 1400 MT sillimanite pertaining to IREL were sampled for issuance of monazite test certificate.
http://www.dae.gov.in/ar2001/p27.jpg Heavy mineral rich Inayam Teri Sand Deposit, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu

Mining Plan approval:

Scrutiny of mining plans in respect of atomic minerals was continued as per the provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957. Seven mining plans in respect of mining of ilmenite, rutile and garnet pertaining to M/s. V.V. Minerals, Tamil Nadu were approved after scrutiny. No Objection Certificates in respect of 4 mining plans pertaining to mining of garnet in Rajasthan were issued to IBM.

http://www.dae.gov.in/ar2001/amd.htm

Plea against mining firm dismissed

Staff Reporter (July 5, 2007, The Hindu)

MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday dismissed a writ appeal filed by the Kanyakumari Collector against the lease granted to V.V. Minerals, a Tirunelveli-based company, to mine beach garnet (used as gemstones and abrasives) in the district.

Managing partner of the company, S. Vaikuntarajan, is a major shareholder in Jaya TV. A Division Bench, comprising Justices K. Ravirajapandian and P.R. Shivakumar, dismissed the appeal on the ground that the Collector, statutorily a lower authority, could not question the lease granted by the Director of Geology and Mining. Even if its grant had to be questioned on the ground of illegality, it could be done so only by means of a revision petition before the Centre, the Bench said. The appeal was filed against an order passed by the single judge on May 9, directing the Collector to execute the lease deed in favour of the company in accordance with the lease granted by the Director of Mining on January 31, 2006. The Collector claimed that the single judge had failed to take note of the fact that permitting mining work along the shore might lead to intrusion of sea water and erosion in nearby villages. He said the beach sand would contain monazite, a mineral capable of causing radioactivity. Dumping the monazite, after separating it from raw sand, could endanger public health.

http://www.hindu.com/2007/07/05/stories/2007070557600300.htm

Need to regularise garnet sand export

P. Sudhakar (Oct. 19, 2005 The Hindu)

http://www.hindu.com/2005/10/19/images/2005101914270701.jpg

VALUE-ADDED PRODUCT: The mineral deposit on the beach at Vattakkottai near Kanyakumari. — Photo: A. Shaikmohideen

TIRUNELVELI: The recent ransacking of a garnet sand export unit in the district has once again highlighted the need for stringent measures to regularise the business, which has proved very “lucrative” for some of those involved in it.

When beach sand is separated through a series of physical and chemical processes, it yields a range of costly minerals including garnet sand, ilmenite, rutile, casseterite, monazite etc. As the value-added products of garnet and ilmenite enjoy heavy demand in the international market, several units have come up in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts in the past two decades.

Though the business took roots on the beaches between Uvari and Kanyakumari in 1974-1975, when a Tuticorin-based company started mining beach sand and separating garnet sand from it for export, the boom came much later, after it attracted business from Tirunelveli district. With the assistance of a key person who was ousted from a Tuticorin-based garnet sand exporting company, business flourished, due to a variety of reasons.

“Even though our ancestors lived in this area, they fully relied upon the wealth of the sea for their livelihood. But these people, who mined products deposited on the seashore and the adjoining land just minted money, to the tune of several crores, within a few years,” says 55-year-old S.V. Antony, president of Uvari village panchayat and student of geology.

Residents of all coastal hamlets between Uvari and Kanyakumari allege that the companies invariably use heavy earthmoving equipment for mining, ignoring the official restriction that deposition of sand on the beach can be mined only for a few centimetres. Moreover, after separating the costly minerals, the used sand is not used to fill the spot from where it was excavated. “It causes adverse ecological imbalances. One company has dug a channel to get the ore from deep seabed and this has affected fishing, because of the chemicals used during processing. But authorities have not taken any action. This is the main reason for skirmishes between the companies and the neighbouring villagers, who are ignorant about the regulations on the companies,” he said.

But V. Venkataramani of Fisheries College and Research Institute, Tuticorin, says merely taking away the beach sand and dumping the used sand back in the sea will not affect fish breeding, provided the chemically treated sand contained chemicals within permissible limits. “But the seaside mining will affect turtle breeding,” he warns.

The villagers as well as social activists here feel that the dos and don’ts laid down by the State and Central governments for this business should be transparent and in public domain so that people can alert the officials when things go wrong. “That would be the only effective solution to prevent the recurrence of such clashes,” feels Mr. Antony.

http://www.hindu.com/2005/10/19/stories/2005101914270700.htm

http://tinyurl.com/yt9zhs

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