Our association send one letter to PM Office regarding Indian Mineral policy. This is for our members information.
Date : 25-02-19
Additional Principal Secretary,
Office of the Honourable Prime Minister,
New Delhi – 100 011
Indian mineral sands policy
The most recent changes to the Indian mineral sands policy, by regulatory change and with no consultation with the industry or the wider community, has taken India back to October 1998 and ensures that the country will miss out on the upcoming electric car revolution and further developments in many industries including aerospace, aeronautical and defence.
To put this into perspective India’s policy changes to restrict handling of monazite to state owned enterprises by imposing a limit of 0% monazite in all minerals, effectively re-nationalises the industry. This in turn means that India will be unable to compete for high end manufacturing and jobs in the next transport revolution and gifts China, a strategic rival, a stranglehold on this developing business.
India’s new policy is in stark contrast to the policies that have been put in place in the other major mineral sands producing countries and to illustrate this point I have outlined below the policies currently in place in those countries that compete with India in the mineral sands industry.
Australia: All mineral sands exportable and recognition that monazite is the only mineral sand with appreciable levels of radiation activity. Apart from monazite there are no restrictions on supplying ilmenite, zircon, rutile or xenotime unless they contain greater than 500 parts per million (ppm) or 0.05% of combined U3O8 + ThO2.
Control of monazite is undertaken by notification to the relevant Government body and export approval can be granted for 10 years after provision of information based upon a principal of know your customer and the ultimate end use. Otherwise no restrictions except for that monazite is classed as a hazardous material and the appropriate transport regulations must be met.
Kenya: All mineral sands (including monazite) are exportable but monazite requires specific export approval as it is classed as a ‘Strategic Mineral’ as it is radioactive. Recently approval has been granted for the export of rare earth minerals for 21 years with a slightly higher royalty of 5%.
In the new Mining Act of 2016 there is specific provision for the continuance of mineral licence conditions which does not allow for changes to licence and royalty provisions even if there are changes to the Act. Hence this provides certainty to the holder of the mining licence that terms and conditions of their mining licence cannot be changed during the term of their licence either in the future or retrospectively.
Mozambique: All mineral sands are exportable including monazite and there are no restrictions on the mining or handling of monazite except for normal OH&S provisions governing the handling of radioactive minerals.
USA: No restriction beyond normal hazardous material OH&S regulations. Currently plans are in place to export monazite to Canada for processing.
Vietnam: All mineral sands are exportable except monazite which is classed as a strategic mineral and subject to Prime Ministerial control. Vietnam is a leading supplier of ilmenite and zircon to China.
Finally nowhere else except India classifies the standard mineral sands of ilmenite, rutile, zircon or leucoxene as rare earth minerals for the very simple reason that they contain no rare earths at all.
The outcome of these most recent changes is to restrict India’s participation in the mineral sands industry and hence to restrict its ability to participate in the benefits that flow from the daily and future use of the elements contained in these minerals.
Examples of current, cutting edge manufactured products produced from mineral sands that are either under development or have recently been introduced include the following:
Ilmenite and rutile:
Both these titanium bearing minerals are consumed in the development and production of a myriad number of products used in daily life. However apart from the traditional production of TiO2 pigment there is a growing requirement for specialist titanium metal alloys in both the aerospace, aircraft and military/defence industries. This requirement is based around titanium metals properties of being corrosion resistance and having a very high strength to weight ratio. Hence demand is growing for titanium metal for submarine hulls, missile bodies and particularly in the construction of the new generation Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft.
In aircraft the high strength to weight ratio of titanium metal is advantageous in reducing aircraft weight while maintaining structural integrity. These properties have also led to the development of new titanium/aluminium alloys for use in the new generation and fuel efficient aircraft engines currently under development by both General Electric and Rolls Royce where titanium alloys are used in high stress areas such as turbine airfoils, exhaust systems and compressor blades.
In defence the use of titanium metal is well established in submarine hull construction due to its properties and with the growing uncertainty in geopolitics, this demand is projected to expand. For the same reasons titanium metal alloys are used in missile bodies another area of defence spending growth.
Another example of the new or increasing commercial application of titanium dioxide is in photocatalytic or self-cleaning glass. First commercialised in 2001 in the UK, the ongoing technical developments in this field are assisting this technology to spread into lower level commercial and residential applications and hence increasing demand for this technology and hence for titanium dioxide.
In all the above cases irrespective of whether they are construction, defence or aerospace/aeronautical applications, a secure and long term supply source of ilmenite and rutile are required. Without these supply sources there can be no industrial development.
Zircon sand’s primary constituent zirconium is once again a material used every day in deodorants, ceramics and a multitude of everyday uses. Once again technological developments are leading to increased demand for zircon and zirconium compounds in many applications but particularly in advanced ceramic applications. Further zirconium’s high temperature and corrosion resistance means it is used extensively in nuclear power plants, satellites, space vehicles generally where high temperatures are experienced and aircraft engines.
New applications are particularly seen in the development of new, lightweight composite materials being increasingly used in the aeronautical industry and defence industries.
Monazite has one major use and that is as a source of rare earth elements. Previously it was used in gas mantle and cigarette lighters however its only use now is a source of rare earths.
Rare earths are used in a surprising number of everyday products but their main use is as a source of neodymium, praseodymium, samarium and dysprosium, the major elements in rare earth based magnets. Such magnets are used in any number of applications including mobile phones, computers, motor vehicles, speakers, wind turbines, electric hand tools, adhesive magnets, mineral separation, roller coasters, MRI machines, electric vehicles and many traction motors, electric guitars and many more applications. However the growth area is in the demand for electric vehicles which is poised to grow exponentially in the next decade as vehicles move from the internal combustion motor to electric motors.
Hence by not permitting the mining and exploitation of these minerals India will continue to miss out on the benefits of this modernisation of industry that is currently underway. These benefits are not restricted to employment or technology but also to the development of a sustainable and modern economy. These restrictions will ensure that India remains reliant on external supply sources with its attendant costs to the economy and its balance of payments.
Apart from the loss of current and future manufacturing and technology the ban on the movement and transportation of mineral sands enforced by the Tamil Nadu Government in November 2016 has created uncertainty amongst India’s trading partners regarding the application of the relevant laws in India. Further it has shown that sovereign risk is a real and ongoing threat to both international investment and the development of cutting edge and modern domestic industries in India. Without access to a long term and stable supply of raw materials no downstream manufacturing can be considered and ‘Make in India’ is not possible.
for Beach Minerals Producers Association