Allowing private sector to mine monazite would boost India REEs

MUMBAI (Metal-Pages) 5-May-15.  India needs to rope in private miners to mine and process monazite if it wants to increase its rare earth production, the Beach Minerals Producers Association (BMPA) said.

Although India has large resources of rare earth-bearing mineral monazite, the country has not been able to exploit these resources found along its coastal areas. There are about 83 mining leases granted for mining beach minerals also known as heavy minerals, but only Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL) is processing monazite and producing rare earths. Most of the other miners are focused on titanium and zircon products.

BMPA said that India should permit beach mineral mining lease holders to handle monazite mining too. This would increase the supply of monazite in India. Those miners who are willing to further process monazite to produce rare earths elements should be permitted by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), with assurance that uranium and thorium should be handed over to government authorities or kept in a separate place for future disposal.

The policy of Beach Mineral is that wholly Indian-owned companies are eligible for mining mineral separation and value added products. The miner has to dispose of any monazite produced at their own cost in accordance with Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) directions. The miner has to blend the monazite tailings with waste sand and refill the mine veins.

BMPA president N Pauldurai Perumal said that without permitting private miners/companies, India cannot increase its production of rare earths.

Currently, only government-owned companies are allowed to process rare earths. Government-owned companies have their own limitations and might not have enough funds to make investments in new rare earth projects, whereas, private companies have fewer limitations and involving private companies would pave the way to import the required technology from developed countries.

This model has been proved successful in the case of titanium bearing metals, when it was opened to private entities in 1998. Permitting private companies to exploit monazite under the direct control of DAE, would be beneficial to the government as it would provide uranium and thorium without any need to make huge investments to mine these resources.

He added that many private companies have shown interest in cracking of monazite for rare earth production. V.V.Mineral of Tamil Nadu, Trimax of Andhra Pradesh and Synthetic Rutile Producer Cochin Minerals and Rutile Pvt Ltd of Kerala have approached the DAE for rare earth production.

-By Samil Surendran in Mumbai (samil.surendran@argusmedia.com)

 

Courtesy : Mr.Samil Surendran at Metal Page

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