KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – In a bid to stop illegal mineral sand exports from the country, the Indian government has decided to canalise all exports of such minerals through State-run Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL), effectively banning all private mineral sand miners from making overseas shipments.
Canalising exports through IREL would have quantitative restrictions on the volume of mineral sands, including monazite, garnet, ilmenite, rutile, zircon and sillimanite that could be exported each year.
A few years ago the government opened up mineral sand mining for private miners, but the new restrictions on exports would effectively put a stop to all mining activities by private miners, which were largely dependent on windfall gains from shipping mineral sands to overseas markets, government officials said.
The new export restriction notifications would impact sand mining coastlines of the southern Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.
The quantitative restrictions would also ensure that higher volumes of sand minerals would be available to key strategic manufacturing domestic industries, like defence equipment, aerospace, aviation, telecommunications and energy, which were now heavily import dependent, officials added.
However, a section of private miners maintained that the new restrictions would severely impact on production of sand minerals and, hence, total availability of these minerals to downstream user industries.
They pointed out that IREL would merely be a canalising agency for exports and not involved in production of sand minerals beyond its own need for captive consumption. At the same time, without the incentive of exports, private mineral sand miners would have no incentive to increase production.