Production of non-metallic minerals witness slide as mines decline

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Production of non-metallic minerals is on the wane as the count of mines has seen a substantive decline from 931 in 2016-17 to 780 in 2018-19. 

While metallic minerals grab the limelight for more widespread industrial applications, the non-metallic minerals trump them in value terms. At the end of 2018-19, the non-metallic minerals had a greater contribution to the country’s economy, valued at Rs 63,011 crore. Against this, the value of metallic minerals stood at Rs 61,009 crore. 

In case of some of the industrial minerals like barytes, talc, steatite, pyrophyllite, kyanite, andalusite, sillimanite and wollastonite, India is one of the leading producing countries in the world. 

“While India is endowed with adequate reserves of number of industrial minerals, namely, limestone, calcareous minerals, barites, sillimanite, talc, steatite, pyrophyllite, silica minerals etc., however, minerals such as apatite and rock phosphate, graphite, asbestos, fluorite and potash fall in the deficit or scarce category. Domestic resources for industrial minerals namely, borax, diatomite, mercury and Sulphur are almost negligible and India has to rely on their imports”, said R L Mohanty, vice president Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (Fimi) said in an address to the delegates at the Conference on Indian Industrial Minerals held in Ahmedabad recently.

India has significant import dependence on some of the industrial minerals. In case of rock phosphate, the reliance is 83 per cent. The import dependence exceeds 40 per cent for other key industrial minerals like graphite, magnesite and sulphur.

“However, it is a matter of concern that the resources of many of the industrial minerals remain untapped in the country as a result of which the annual output of non-metallic and minor minerals is almost stagnant. There is also a huge competition from the global market and in a competitive world, it is necessary that what we produce should be economically viable. The industry must utilise its full potential and rise to new levels of technological competitiveness and productivity. The domestic industrial mineral industry needs to be promoted through a mix of progressive market development strategies and suitable fiscal measures to offset cheaper imports”, Mohanty added.

The demand for industrial minerals is expected to escalate given the Government’s thrust on rural segment and rapid urbanisation programmes. 

In February 2015, 31 minerals were transferred to the minor minerals category and most of the industrial minerals being minor minerals, come under the purview of state governments.

“It is imperative that the state governments take initiatives for creating conducive environment for the enhanced growth and contribution of industrial minerals by way of expediency in grant of concessions, faster development of mines and facilitating taxation structure besides adoption of state-of-the-art technologies and skill development to meet the domestic demand as well as supplies to international markets. Our Gujarat based mining companies are facing major challenges in getting statutory clearances particularly for grant of environment clearances (EC). There are number of applications which are pending at state level for their grant”, he said.

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