Speech made by Mr Pradeep Koneru, MD, Trimex Sands Pvt Ltd at ASSOCHAM Conference on Extracting Value from Heavy Minerals.
Hon Guest of Honor Mr Sudhakar Shukla, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Mines; Mr HS Chhatwal; Mr V Subramanian; Mr D Singh, CMD, IREL.
I take this opportunity to highlight some major issues and problems faced by the industry.
We are proud of the role played by heavy minerals – our products are like the salt in an Indian kitchen – you put it in almost al dishes. Heavy minerals like Illeminte, Sillimanite, Rutile, Zircon and Garnet are used in diverse industries – electronics, ceramics, aerospace, paint, pharmaceutical, defense, fertilizers, paper etc.
There is naturally scope galore but we are not doing enough. And those like us who are doing out bit, are faced with numerous challenge, and some strange rules.
On August 6, 2013, National Green Tribunal imposed a countrywide ban on sand mining – what’s strange, the Heavy Mineral Mining industry, which has nothing to do with sand mining, got affected because the former was confused as falling within the latter!
As heavy mineral producers we are proud of the role played by us. The private players exploit all the heavy minerals to their maximum value especially in parts of south India like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and also in Odisha. India has vast resources of heavy minerals. In fact it is almost the world’s third largest in mineral reserves but we are one of the lowest producers of heavy minerals. We have one of the largest deposits of heavy minerals (about 28%), yet our exploitation is dismally low at just about 6%. USA, Australia and South Africa has about 11% reserves but exploit heavily. The main reasons for this has been various clearances and approvals required. We also face some major challenges in terms of infrastructure.
MMDR has made things more transparent and friendlier for us to work with. However, when you are encouraging the mining sector levying export duty on heavy minerals is very de-motivating.
We always welcome the FDI policy, but FDI is not enough for mining sector unless we go for value addition. Heavy mineral mining sector is completely different from what we do in other natural mining like iron ore or bauxite. Separation of minerals should itself be considered as value addition. FDI is not allowed in atomic minerals; so as private companies we are stuck in the middle, because at one side we are not allowed to process atomic minerals and on another we are not allowed to bring in FDI. Where is the balance.
When we talk about mining monazite, the issue of radioactive minerals evolves. Radioactive Minerals can always be handed over to the government agencies as delegated by the government of India.
Under the new Mining Act, I will actually request government to ban people form filling PIL’s because of the kind of regulations and continuous supervision done by various government agencies whether it is Indian Bureau of Mines or Atomic Energy Regulation Board (AERB).
We diligently follow all prescribed norms and guidelines as set by the government. Every three months we have officials visiting us from IBM and AERB, who come to supervise and monitor what we are doing. I don’t think any radioactive mineral can easily leave or enter this country, so there are lots of misconceptions which as an industry we are trying to address and requesting the government for help. Our business is to exploit heavy minerals to the maximum value. Unfortunately, large part of our efforts go into addressing issues raised by various public with vested interests.
As Trimex we are the latest entrant in the heavy mineral business. We are almost 120 km from Vizag. When we were setting up the plant we had to rush for every nuts and bolts to Vizag. But things have dramatically ever since. We have built a small town and played a sterling role in empowering communities. Similarly, VV Minerals have played a key role and in fact they have developed a city. I would request everyone present here to visit our facilities built there to get a sense of the kind of role played by the industry. In terms of CSR, role played by both private and public sectors have been extremely large and significant in comparison with many other businesses.
‘Make in India’ is doing great but to Make in India we have to first ‘Mine in India’ and this big shift can give a big boost to the development of the industry.
In the end, I wish to reiterate that heavy mineral mining sector needs a big boost and then it can probably surpass the IT sector one day.