Underuse of Rare Earth Minerals

Posted by shivarajan80 on November 14th, 2016

As per industry reports, the rare earth industry in India is underused and lies wasted. The Indian Rare Earth Industry is worth Rs. 90,000 crore of annual turnover.

As per estimates by Beach Minerals Producers Association, the industry can net a capital employment of about Rs 121,000 crore.

The rare earths found in India are one of the most significant ones. Collectively called Beach Sand Minerals (BSM), they include Ilmenite, Sillimanite, Garnet, Zircon, Monazite and Rutile and amount for almost 35 per cent of the world’s total beach sand mineral deposits.

"In 1998, they started freeing up the industry and in 2006, those minerals were taken off the prescribed substances list and for some reason, they have recently been put back on. So, the country has actually gone backwards. There is no justification," said Grant Smith, director-overseas operations at V. V. Minerals. "No one is getting the licences. It has been reserved specifically for PSUs through the DAE (department of atomic energy). So, at the moment, it is only the IndiaRare Earths and the Kerala operations."

"There is a perception here in India that monazite is an atomic mineral. It is actually not. Monazite is just a mineral that contains thorium and very very small amounts of uranium. But the major constituent in monazite is rare earth," said Smith. "In today’s world, China controls over 95 per cent of the rare earth market. India is not realizing any potential. You have to separate the mineral monazite from its constituents. None of the other rare earths have any thorium in them. They are associated in the ore body but not in the actual mineral."

C Swamydas, chief advisor for V V Minerals, said that proposals have been given to take on all the cost of setting up the plant, and even pay to let the atomic energy department put its own people process monazite. He added that, "We shall give the thorium (produced) to the government for free. They can store it for future use."

Though there is so much potential and scope, the industry lacks clear policies for beach and sand mining. This results in unclear rules and misleading on allegations of illegal sand mining beach mining companies.

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