Herald: State govt now willing to explore presence of other minerals in Goa

State govt now willing to explore presence of other minerals in Goa

24 Jun 2019 04:03am IST

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24 Jun 2019 04:03am IST

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The Department of Mines and Geology has recognised that there could be more minerals available in the State apart from iron-ore, manganese or bauxite. They have asked a company to produce details available with them on the likely presence of dolomite. Some mining stakeholders believe that it is time to explore for some new minerals. VIKANT SAHAY reports

For the first time in response to the application submitted by the Goa-based mining company Nathurmal Eco Minerals Pvt Ltd to allow them to explore minerals other than iron-ore, the Directorate of Mines and Geology in its letter (No.04/63/201/Minor/Mines 9104) dated June 7, 2019 have asked the company to submit details on preliminary reserves of dolomite along with a surface and geological plan. The company is likely to submit its findings on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 to the Directorate of Mines and Geology, Government of Goa.

 “For the first time Department of Mines and Geology has recognised that there are other minerals apart from iron-ore in Goa. It is good news that they are willing to allow people to explore. In fact, we had started exploring from the year 2008. The survey is going on which is bit hindered due to the rains but we should be able to submit the answers to the questions raised by the Mines Department by Tuesday,” said Haresh L Melwani, CEO, HL Nathurmal, mine owner.

Goa has been abundantly blessed with various minerals but the ore exploration has been restricted to iron ore, manganese ore laterite, and bauxite. With the closure of iron-ore mining, it an opportune time for the mine owners to dig in and explore what other minerals, both major and minor which Goa may have to offer. 

One must look at the historic background in order to understand this lack of exploration of the minerals. Goa was an overseas territory of Portugal and at the relevant period from 1945 onwards, Portugal was finding it difficult to manage its own expenses, leave alone those of its overseas territories, which were told to freely permit businesses to carry out the business activity which could raise revenues by way of taxation for the local government to manage its expenses.

At the same time the post WW II reconstruction of Japan resulted in large demand of steel and consequently iron ore and manganese ore became much in demand, resulting in over 775 mining concessions being granted to everybody who applied.

The first commercial iron ore deposits in Goa were identified by Otto of Bethlehem Steel, USA but it was the Japanese Steel Mills who took advantage of their proximity to corner the supply of these minerals to fulfill their production requirements to meet the growing demands of their reconstruction.

The Japanese kept a tight grip on the market price of the ores and ensured that prices remained soft so there was not too much profit available with the mining companies or the government to invest in exploration.

The entry of the Chinese and their sudden economic boom caused all prices of ores to jump many-fold resulting in windfall profits to the mining companies as also the government to invest in infrastructure and exploration. However, this opportunity too was not taken advantage of due to lack of incentives to encourage exploration.

Now, the higher international prices for minerals had raised the potential to explore the minerals and at current time following minerals have been identified in commercially exploitable deposits of calcium bentonite, dolomite and manganiferrous clay. In Goa, exploration work on nickel, cobalt, gold, rare earth minerals etc is under way and is likely to yield positive results in very near future.

The rare earth minerals came into prominence in the 1980s and have become vital to our growing technology requirements be it wireless communications, or energy storage, etc. 

“Goa has been blessed with many minerals. What is lacking is the effort to explore these minerals. A lot of researchers have published their papers but unfortunately no proper exploration is being done or being allowed to be done. So if there is a proper exploration atmosphere and eco-system created then I think Goa can find its true mineral value and to my knowledge it is substantial. Since there is a mining ban then it is more conducive atmosphere for prospecting an exploration and government should pull out all stops and do the full exploration and get an understanding of the mineral reserves so that it can become a revenue stream for the future which will create more jobs,” added Melwani.

An experienced mining engineer, Y S Reddy is of the opinion that apart from iron-ore there may be traces of manganese, bauxite and even chromite. “In fact after Goa’s independence the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had done a detailed survey in 1968 but nothing substantial came out of that bid on exploration of other minerals than iron-ore in Goa,” said Reddy.

Malay Tikader, director of Mines Safety based in Goa is of the personal opinion that apart from iron ore, minerals like bauxite and building stones are being mined. 

“We have not explored other minerals like dolomite etc. However, we see that dolomite might be available. Both dolomite and limestone generally co-exist naturally. No one has explored it so far but there may not be a large deposit as such as there is no large presence of limestone seen in Goa. In my opinion the economical reserves may not be available in Goa,” said Malay Tikader in his personal capacity as a mine expert.

When asked that apart from iron ore, what other minerals may be available in Goa, the Deputy Controller of Mines of the Indian Bureau of Mines, Prem Prakash said, “We are looking after only major minerals and not the minor ones. We can only say that beside the low grade iron ore which is present in Goa there is bauxite and a little bit of manganese. Manganese has been found in the forest areas which naturally makes mining of manganese next to impossible as our environment laws are very stringent. Other minor minerals like laterite and sand are available though.”

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