Trimex to expand heavy mineral operations

By Shruti Salwan
Published: Monday, 25 January 2016

New projects to add 14m tpa HMS capacity; Company denies allegations of misconduct.

Indian mineral sands producer Trimex Group has received approval from the state government of Andhra Pradesh to develop beach sand heavy mineral projects at Bhavanapadu and Kalingapatnam in the state’s Srikakulam district.

The expansion will cost INR 2,500 crore ($374m) and will add 14m tpa heavy mineral sands (HMS) capacity to Trimex’s existing operations. This additional volume is expected to reach the market within two years from the date of  execution of the mining lease.

As per a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Trimex and the government, the company has received an in-principle grant of mining lease for beach sand minerals over a 17.88km2 area.

The Bhavanapadu project will be developed by Trimex Heavy Minerals Pvt Ltd (THMPL), which is proposing to mine 10m tpa HMS. The Kalingapatnam project will be run by Trimex Ores Pvt Ltd (TOPL), which is targeting output of 4m tpa HMS, including ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet and sillimanite.

Speaking at the Assocham conference on heavy minerals held in Delhi in December, Pradeep Koneru, managing director of Trimex Group, said that "despite having one of the world’s largest deposits of heavy minerals, about 28%, exploitation is dismally low, at just about 6%."  

The main reasons for limited exploration have been the various clearances and approvals required to obtain a mining lease in India, coupled with country’s infrastructural challenges, he said.

Trimex currently owns a single mining lease for the Srikurmam deposit in the Srikakulam district, with permission to mine up to 2m tpa beach sand. The current production capacity at the Srikurmam unit amounts to 200,000 tpa ilmenite, 6,000 tpa rutile, 6,000 tpa zircon, 60,000 tpa garnet and 50,000 tpa of sillimanite.

Trimex Group has recently been charged by the Public Accounts Committee of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly for allegedly violating rules pertaining to mining areas and storage of minerals. Trimex denies all of the allegations.

India’s beach sand mineral industry in flux

India’s long-standing beach sand mineral industry is struggling to come to terms with new government-imposed restrictions and requirements.

Accounting for over 4% of the global production of beach sand minerals, India’s miners were banned from excavating beaches in Tamil Nadu, following the implementation of the Mining and Mineral Regulation Development Act (MMDR) 2015 last year, which aimed to protect resources and auction off mining rights to the highest bidders.

Some miners have argued that the changes contained in MMDR Act do not relate to beach sand minerals – which include ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet, monazite and sillimanite – as these minerals are classified as atomic minerals under Part B of the First Schedule of the MMDR Act.

Atomic minerals are considered as a source of energy, which can be used as substitutes for coal, mineral oil and hydro-electricity.

Vaikundarajan Subramanian, managing partner of beach sand miner, VV Minerals, told IM that in order to attract foreign direct investment and develop proper infrastructure for India’s mining sector, the government should reclassify beach sand minerals as non-atomic. There should be a set of clearly framed separate rules for atomic minerals, he said, while beach sands should be promoted to private enterprise.

*Conversions made January 2016