KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has established indicative reserves of copper in the central Indian province of Chhattisgarh.
The discovered copper reserves, spread across an estimated 25 km2, will be taken up for detailed exploration by Chhattisgarh Copper Limited (CCL), the recently floated joint venture of the country’s sole integrated copper refiner, Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL), which is owned by the government, and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation Limited (CMDCL).
CCL, incorporated last month, in which HCL holds a majority equity stake of 74% and CMDCL the balance, will commence detailed exploration next month, starting from Podal, in Chhattisgarh, as the location is in close proximity to HCL’s existing Malanjkhand copper project in the neighboring province of Madhya Pradesh.
The drilling operations for detailed exploration will entail $60-million in capital expenditure (capex) and will form part of HCL’s total planned capex of $104-million for expansion and diversification projects in the current financial year, HCL chairperson and MD Santosh Sharma said.
Meanwhile, anticipating a shortage of copper in the wake of the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper plant, in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, for violations of pollution control laws, HCL is planning to revive its mothballed Khetri copper plant in the central province of Rajasthan.
The revival of the Khetri smelter and acid producing facility will enable HCL to add about 31 000 t/y of refined copper to its production capacity, Sharma said.
In the medium term, bolstered by its discovery of new reserves in Chhattisgarh, HCL has set a target to ramp up refined copper production to about 100 000 t/y from current production levels of about 70 000 t/y.
“The Khetri copper plant is expected to reach a capacity utilisation of 120% over a period of time and increasing domestic copper production against the anticipated backdrop of domestic shortage, is the highest priority of the company,” Sharma said.
The exploration of greenfield copper reserves in Chhattisgarh is expected to be the stepping stone for HCL to evolve to offer independent mineral exploration services to other mineral based companies.
Although not officially confirmed, sources said that the government metal refiner will tap the capital market in the current financial year to raise about $150-million to fund its various new projects.