Mineral exploitation in Odisha [India] low despite increased mining activity – by Sadananda Mohapatra (Business Standard – December 16, 2013)

http://www.business-standard.com/ [India]

The state has about 174 million tonne of nickel, which is yet to explored

Despite increased mining activity in Odisha, the mineral exploitation in the state remains low in last hundred years compared to its reserves.

Major minerals with sizeable reserves in the state include chromite, iron ore, bauxite and manganese. While only 13% of the total chromite deposits has been excavated so far, the same for iron ore and manganese are 9% each and for bauxite only three%.

Odisha currently possesses 159.40 million tonne of chrome ore that finds its usage in making stainless steel, out of 182.86 million tonne of preliminary proven reserve, according to the government statistics. About 23.50 million tonne of the mineral or 12.8% of the proven reserve has been excavated so far.

Nearly all of India’s chrome ore is found in Odisha with state-run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) having control over one-third of production. Few players such as Tata Steel, Indian Metal and Ferro alloys (IMFA), Ferro Alloys Corporation Limited (FACOR) and Balasore Alloys (formerly Ispat Alloys) have also their captive mines in the state.

Chrome ore mining was primarily started by Tata Steel in Sukinda region of the state, since 1952 in 1261 hectare (ha) area leased out Tatas. But the Supreme Court, while hearing a mines lease renewal case in 1993, had ordered to reduce the area for Tata to 406 ha. The rest of the lease area of 855.47 ha was distributed between Indian Charge Chrome Ltd,(ICCL), IMFA, Jindal Stainless Limited (formerly Jindal Strips Limited) and FACOR.

Similarly, bauxite deposits were estimated at about half of total Indian deposits at 1862.25 million tonne. Out of this, 55.68 mt bauxite has been raised so far, with 1806.57 mt of this aluminium making mineral, mostly found along the eastern ghat hill range in south Odisha, remains untapped.

Bauxite excavation is currently carried out by National Aluminium Company (Nalco) in Koraput district. Though some private miners and OMC have been allotted leases, none of the bauxite mines are operational now, except for Nalco. The exploitation of this mineral is only 2.98% of the total deposit.

Iron ore deposits in the state, estimated as the highest in the country, has come down by only 9.1%, ever since the mining started in 1904. The current reserve, as surveyed by Director of Geology (Odisha), Geographical Survey of India and leaseholders, put total iron ore reserve at 4958.25 million tonne, less by about half a billion tonne from original reserve.

While annual output of iron ore remained at 70 to 80 million tonne before 2010, it has come down to 60-62 million tonne in last couple of years, due to crackdown of the state government on miners who were running their mines without necessary clearances. Currently, less than 15 iron ore miners are operating in the state, out of 120 leases.

Manganese deposit in the state, which was about 132 million tonne as per initial estimate, has come down to 120.11 million tonne as of now, registering only 9% usage of the mineral.

In other minerals, the state has just a little less than a billion tonne lime stone, after excavation of 21.29 million tonne deposits in southern Odisha and 4.32 million tonne graphite, against proven reserve of 4.36 million tonne.

The state has about 174 million tonne of nickel, which is yet to explored, the government data showed.

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