Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena in Bhubaneswar, August 25, 2018: India is endowed with a number of vital natural resources in large quantities. These are minerals, forests, water, land and also marine resources. The proper utilization of these resources to bring rapid socio-economic developments in India is our primary responsibility. We are fortunate for having vast and varied reserves of mineral resources.

Mineral resources are very vital for industrial and economic developments of the world, particularly for mineral rich countries like India. The thermal power plants, iron and steel, aluminium, other non-ferrous metals, nuclear metals, composite materials, cement, refractories, and inorganic chemical industries are all mineral-based.

During the last century, mineral-based industries all over the world including India, have expanded very rapidly and consumed a large proportion of the high grade minerals in the earth crust. In order to sustain the mineral based industries, it is imperative to mine and utilize all grades of lean and complex ores along with the high grade ones. Further, mineral resources being non-renewable in nature, it is necessary to conserve, mine and utilize these judiciously as well as scientifically to meet our requirements in various industrial sectors for the decades ahead, otherwise it would be impossible to sustain these.

In India, at present, the mining of minerals as well as utilizing these in various mineral based industries are far from being efficient compared to those in developed countries. In most of the mines, particularly those leased to the private parties, back dated technologies are being used for mining the minerals. As a result, the good grade minerals are mined leaving behind the low grade ones in the mine to be lost along with the overburden for all time to come.

The illegal mining is greatly responsible for improper harnessing of minerals with resulting in considerable amounts of their wastage, and causing a great loss of revenue. In addition to these, the upgradation of lean minerals through beneficiation is also not carried out properly, resulting in a loss of large amounts of valuable mineral fines in the slimes and tailings, which are considered as wastes. Due to unplanned mining, other valuable natural resources particularly water and forest resources are damaged to a great extent. In addition to these, after completion of mining, the mine closer practice is not followed properly living the area in a devastated condition.

Similarly, a large number of mineral based industries in India due to adoption of back dated technologies, function inefficiently and also generate a lot of wastes in which a good amount of mineral values get lost. As a matter of fact, during mining, mineral processing, metal extraction, and production of refractories and chemicals, very little care is taken to protect the environment and thus causing a lot of pollution problems in the land, water bodies and air of the locality.

In view of all these, in our country the mine owners should take necessary steps to optimize mining of all grade of minerals, beneficiate properly the low grade and complex ones, recover the mineral values from the slimes and tailings of the mineral beneficiation plants and utilize the mining and mineral beneficiation wastes to back fill the exhausted mines. At the same time, they should take great care to protect the existing water and forest resources and also undertake afforestation programmes on the mine dumps and barren areas, and utilize the mine pits for rain water harvesting.

This will help to make the mine areas again more productive and habitable after the completion of mining as it is done in most of the developed countries. Similarly, the mineral based industries should adopt environment friendly best available technologies with zero wastes approach, so that the minerals can be utilized fully. The solid wastes and effluents of these industries should be managed properly in order to keep the environment clean.

I may mention here that about forty years back, an integrated mines development programme named as ‘MAHA’ (Mines – Minerals And Habitat) was demonstrated under my leadership at a chromite mine belonging to OMC, Odisha. Because of the novelty and success of the programme on the request of the then Uttar Pradesh Government, ‘MAHA’ project was carried out successfully in a limestone mine at Lambidhar, Uttarakhand.

As the mineral resources are very vital for most of our major industries, it is essential for the government to develop efficient mechanisms to monitor the proper functioning of the mining, mineral processing and mineral based industries and also managing their wastes. Best available technologies to harness and utilize these non-replenishable resources should be adopted to sustain our industrial and economic developments.

In recent years, a large number of advance technologies are available in developed countries as well as in India. The mining and mineral based industries should take advantage of these and adopt the environment friendly best available technologies for mining, mineral processing, agglomeration of ore fines, recoveries of values from wastes and effluents for production of energy, metals, refractories and chemicals, as well as manufacturing of structural materials, machines and other utilities with zero wastes approach.

In this task, both the central and state governments of India have the major role to play. All possible efforts should be made in time so that our mineral resources are conserved, properly mined, fully utilized in order to sustain the mineral based industries while bringing socio economic developments for our people.

(Former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India)

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