KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - India’s Mines Ministry is looking for contributions from various resource stakeholders to garner an additional $722-million to enable the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to expand its exploratory activities.
The financial participation by stakeholders, the long-term beneficiaries of the GSI, would enable the latter to ramp up its exploratory activities and significantly increase its paltry planned outlays of about $320-million between 2012 to 2017, an official in the Mines Ministry said.
Talks were initially being held with government-owned companies engaged in the sector, including oil major ONGC Limited, Coal India Limited, National Aluminium Company Limited and the Atomic Minerals Directorate, to fund GSI activities and participate in joint projects, the official said.
Participating companies would also be expected to fund critical hardware the GSI required to expand its technological capacities, including aircraft to explore deeper earth structures, as the agency was currently only able to probe depths of up to 100 m, he added.
In the quest to develop human resources and technological skills for higher levels of mineral exploration, the Mines Ministry was aiming to conclude agreements with Australian institutes involved in geosciences. This would include training Indian geologists and scientists from both the GSI and companies in the mining sector.
The focus on enhancing GSI capacities through the industry’s financial participation followed complaints that there existed a huge gap between exploration and data collation, and the growth of the Indian mining and mineral industry, officials in the Ministry pointed out.
Industry sources said that India’s lack of focus in the basic mapping of mineral resources was reflected in the fact that the country spent a paltry $50-million each year on mineral exploration, over the past 30 years, whereas a country such as Australia invested at least 30 times more on such activities.
The result of such a lack of investment was reflected in the fact that India had not reported any significant mineral discovery since 2000, the sources added.
According to government data, the country produces 89 minerals with the mining sector contributing about 2% to 3% of gross domestic product. Of this, fuel minerals contribute about 82%, followed by 6% by metallic minerals and 8% by non-metallic minerals. India is deficient in and import-dependent on critical fertiliser minerals such as potash and rock phosphate, and in gold, diamonds, nickel, copper, lead and zinc.