KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - India’s Mines Ministry has proposed the government spend $1.4-billion between 2012 and 2017 to plug the technological gap in mineral exploration, thereby increasing mining’s share in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was currently pegged at 2.2%.
The proposal was part of a report prepared by the Working Group on Mineral Exploration and Development (other than coal and lignite) which would be part of India’s twelfth Five Year Plan beginning in 2012/2013.
Quoting from a report prepared by McKinsey & Company on behalf of the Mines Ministry, the Working Group noted that India’s geological setup was very similar to resource-rich countries like Canada, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Chile and Mexico. In 2010, mining's GDP share in these countries ranged from 2.3% to 15.1%, whereas in India it remained stagnant at 2.2%.
Global spending on exploration in 2010 was $10.68-billion with Canada accounting for 18%, Australia 11%, the US 8%, Peru 7% and Mexico 6%. The exploration spending in India was $15/km2 compared with $124/km2 in Australia and $118/km2 in Canada, the Working Group noted, citing the McKinsey report.
“The National Mineral Policy 2008 envisaged that the private sector would be the main source of investment in reconnaissance and exploration and government agencies would spend public funds in areas where private investments would not be forthcoming because of high levels of uncertainties,” the Working Group said.
“However, investments in exploration were grossly inadequate and not commensurate with the geological potential of the country,” the Group concluded.
It has been proposed that of the total $1.4-billion investment in exploration over five years $938-million should be earmarked for the Geological Survey of India, including the infusion of fresh capital, $408-million should be set aside for various provincial government agencies engaged in mineral exploration, $10-million for the Indian Bureau of Mines and $3.6-million for the Mineral Exploration Corporation of India.
The technological gaps in exploration identified by the Working Group include the absence of detailed structural geophysical and geochemical data, use of obsolete and time-consuming drilling equipment and techniques, lack of offshore drilling technology, failure to use hyperspectral remote sensing and three-dimensional seismic surveys to provide detailed geological and mineral mapping capability, at both regional and project scales.
The report also identified the absence of data and interpretation of low-altitude multi-sensor airborne surveys with software support for data synthesis and interpretation aimed at anomaly location.
It was pointed out that India’s 'Obvious Geological Potential’ area comprises 0.57-million km2 and is divided into five mineral belts comprising the North East Peninsular Belt and the Chotta Nagpur Plateau, which include the provinces of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the Central Belt, which comprises Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharasthra, the South West Belt, which comprises Karnataka and Goa, and the North West Belt, comprising Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The Working Group recommended that against the backdrop of the proposed Mining and Mineral Development and Regulation Bill 2011, agencies of the federal and provincial government focus on these five belts when drawing up exploration plans using the funds allocated.