KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - The Indian government is looking to tweak its rare earth mining policy and open a window for the auction of at least one rare-earth deposit to step up production in the short-term.
However, the eligibility criteria for the bidders were not yet clear and no details were available as to whether the auction would be open to only government owned miners, private miners or both.
According to a senior official in the Mines Ministry, the government was looking at one rare-earth deposit in the central Indian desert province of Rajasthan to be put on the block, on an experimental basis, to widen the number of rare-earth miners in the country and ramp up production to pose a challenge to China, the largest global supplier of rare earths.
The government-owned Indian Rare Earths Limited was currently the sole miner and producer of rare earths in the country. It also has joint ventures with Toyota Tsusho for production of mixed rare earth chloride.
The official said that Geological Survey of India (GSI) had been directed to complete a baseline survey of 1 000 km2 in the Barmer desert and one deposit would be considered for auction.
The survey was expected to be completed over the next year and would be auctioned for further detailed exploration and mining projects, he added.
Preliminary studies indicated that the rare-earth deposits in Barmer would offer opportunities to extract low thorium.
According to the Ministry official, the trial auction would enable the government to gauge the response of domestic miners to entering into rare earth mining, which until now was considered a greenfield area for the domestic mining industry.
Simultaneously, the maiden auction would enable the establishment of auction parameters, including determining base price, all of which would have very different parameters than the auction of major minerals.
The renewed focus on expanding rare-earth mining in the country followed the government reassessment of the country’s monazite reserves, in late 2014.
As previously reported by Mining Weekly Online the official data on monazite was revised upwards by 1.25-million tonnes to 11.93-million tonnes following new exploration and assessments by GSI.