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Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

CESS studying depletion of mineral content in sand

N.J. Nair

Heavy mineral content in Kollam mining belt has fallen from 60% in 1984 to 12%


Study initiated by KMML in view of shortage of ilmenite

Mining prospects restricted due to pressure on land


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) is conducting a study to detect the cause of depletion in heavy mineral content in the sand mined through beach washing in the mining belt in Kollam district.

The study spanning 18 months has been initiated by Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. (KMML) as part of its long-term strategy to secure ilmenite for future requirements. N.R. Subramaniam, KMML managing director, told The Hindu that the severe depletion in heavy mineral content in the sand from 60 per cent in 1984 to 12 per cent now called for a serious study to ascertain whether there was any change in the tidal pattern following the construction of the Neendakara port and other factors. Though the 2-km captive mining stretch allotted to the company at Ponmana is sufficient to meet its immediate needs, an initiative is being made to identify other potential sources.

Availability of ilmenite, as an essential feed stock for at least three major industrial units — KMML, Travancore Titanium Products (TTP) and the lone private player, Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL) — has emerged as a major issue when proven vast resources in the State ranging between Kollam and Alappuzha districts have been left untapped. The industrial units are now contracting imports from outside the State and even abroad. Mr. Subramaniam, who also holds charge of TTP, says while KMML needs 5,000 tonnes a month, TTP needs 3,500 tonnes. The requirement of CMRL has been put around 7,000 tonnes and now it is being sourced from Mozambique.

Scarcity of ilmenite the world over following the recent floods in Australia and China has compelled the companies to explore alternative sources as the future appears to be grim. The State has enough reserves of ilmenite to feed the current annual demand of just over 3 lakh tonnes for at least 400 years. But mining prospects are restricted due to pressure on land and attendant fears of displacing thousands of people.

A high-level delegation, led by Industries Minister Elamaram Karim, had visited Vietnam to explore the possibilities of sourcing the mineral from there. Sri Lanka is another destination that the State government would like to actively engage for sustained imports. The KMML is now making an effort to secure minerals from these countries. Approval of the board has already been secured for the programme.

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