Comments on the PIB release of Ministry of Mines “ Government has brought reformative changes in the mining and minerals sector” by Mines Secretary Mr. Balvinder Kumar

The above mentioned press release mentions that the ministry has released Atomic Mineral Concession Rules, 2016 (AMCR) during the National Dialogue on “Critical Mineral Resources for India’s manufacturing needs”.  It indicates that twelve critical minerals including beryllium, germanium, rare earths (heavy and light), rhenium, tantalum etc., find specialized use in a range of industries and modern applications, such as aerospace, automobiles, cameras, defense, entertainment systems, laptops, medical imaging, nuclear energy and smart phones. These critical minerals could play an important role in the success of the Make in India programme and sustainable growth of Indian economy. These critical minerals would also play a role in nurturing the domestic manufacturing capacity to support the government’s low-carbon plans. In this connection it is mentioned that the Atomic Minerals Concession Rules, 2016 is brought out to help  the growth of the critical minerals.

There was no AMCR prior to 2016 and the atomic minerals were governed by the general mineral concession rules. This is presumed to have been brought out for the development of the atomic minerals and critical minerals. However, the concept of Threshold Value Limit (TLV) will have a negative impact on the development and the result will be opposite to the “Make in India” program.

One example is the beach sand minerals sector (BSM). Till this rule is brought out, the BSM sector was covered by the general mineral concession rules. Now that the AMCR is brought out and a TLV of 0.75% monazite is fixed on the total heavy minerals (THM), the continuance and new entry of private players will cease to exist in the BSM sector and the entire country has to depend upon the existing two PSUs viz., Indian Rare Earths Ltd., and Kerala Metals and Minerals Ltd. If the performance during last ten years of these two entities are any indication, we will be going back in the BSM field by twenty years. Rare earths (REs)are also indicated as the critical mineral. India has abundant resources of monazite containing rare earths, both heavy and light. Hence, the need of the hour to meet the rare earth requirements of the country is to encourage the private sector to produce and process monazite mineral. This will be possible only if the private sector and public sector are given a level playing field in the BSM sector. During the session on AMCR at Raipur, the MOM additional secretary and the economic adviser informed that they do not know anything about the TLV matter in particular and AMCR as a whole, since, the entire rules were made by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and they were unable to give any clarifications on AMCR. The participants were told to contact DAE for further clarifications as well as if there is any grievance in AMCR.

It was really surprising that during the session on Off shore exploration, it was informed that IBM had identified rare earth resources in ppm levels. But the country and the government are not interested in exploiting the rare earths available in monazite mineral. The rare earth percentage in monazite is 65%, one of the greatest in the world.

Hence, the contention in the PIB release that the AMCR will improve the exploitation of critical minerals including rare earth elements is totally against facts. If the country really is serious about advancing in the field of rare earths, the only solution is to increase the TLV of monazite content in the ilmenite and zircon deposits to 5% monazite content in the THM. This will bring in private as well as foreign participation in the BSM sector. If this is achieved, and the value addition of ilmenite, zircon and monazite are insisted, the country will be dominant player in the BSM sector. As India is having 35% of the world reserves of the BSM deposits, if suitable policy decision are implemented with a 100 year life of these deposits the country will have the following financial and social benefits to the country.

  1. Direct employment: 3,00,000 persons
  2. Indirect employment : 5,00,000 persons
  3. Total Capital employment :    1,21,000 crores.
  4. Total Turn Over:                90,700 crores
  5. Revenue to the governments: Rs. 29,600 crores.

In addition, India will become a prominent player as the exporter of TiO2, rare earth products and zirconium chemicals.

All these will be possible only if the private sector is given permission to exploit all the minerals along with value addition of ilmenite, zircon and monazite.

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