|India holds the prospect of great
mineral wealth but it is all underground.
India has achieved 100% self-sufficiency in the supplies of
industrial minerals including barites, chromite, feldspar,
fireclay, limestone, magnesite, rutile, sillimanite, silica
minerals, talc and wollastonite.
The country also exports barites, bentonite, feldspar,
garnet (abrasive), ilmenite, mica, sandstone and wollastonite
in significant volumes.
Yet India is a significant importer of key industrial
minerals or their value-added products. These include asbestos,
ball clay, fluorspar, graphite, gypsum, limestone, magnesite,
marble, rock phosphate, sulfur and potash.
India is the second-largest producer of barites by volume
after China, making it a major exporter to the global market.
Total reserves or resources of barites in India are estimated
at 86.67 million tonnes, according to the United Nations
Framework Classification (UNFC), of which 59% constitutes
reserves and 41% remaining resources.
India’s barites are made up of 64% oil-well
drilling-grade material, followed by 6% chemical-grade
(chemical-A and chemical-B), 1% paint grade and 27% low-grade.
About 3% of resources are of other, unclassified and not-known
The state of Andhra Pradesh alone accounts for 92% of the
country’s barites resources.
Beach sand mining has now been banned in
India, leading some to
speculate that this is a lost opportunity for the
India’s estimated graphite resources stand at
around 188.67 million tonnes. Resources containing more than
40% fixed carbon constitute about 2.51 million tonnes and
resources with 10-40% fixed carbon make up 36.31 million
tonnes. The remaining 149.85 million tonnes fall under
others/unclassified and not-known grades.
Arunachal Pradesh accounts for about 39% of the total
resources, followed by Jammu & Kashmir (33%), Odisha (10%),
Jharkhand (9%) and Tamil Nadu (4%). The remaining 5% of
resources are distributed across Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat,
Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and
India has about 8.085 billion tonnes of dolomite resources.
Sintering grade accounts for 24% of resources, followed by
steel smelting shop (20%), refractory (9%), blast furnace &
steel smelting shop mixed (5%) and glass (3%). Other,
unclassified, not-known and refractory mixed grades together
account for the remaining 39% of dolomite resources.
The largest share of resources, about 89%, is distributed in
eight states: Madhya Pradesh (28%), Andhra Pradesh (13%),
Chhattisgarh (11%), Odisha (10%), Karnataka (8%), Gujarat (7%),
Rajasthan (7%) and Maharashtra (5%). The remaining 11% is
distributed among the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand,
Haryana, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and
|Rajasthan is an important minerals hub,
which has bentonite, garnet,
talc, graphite and wollastonite
Kaolin resources in India total about 2.705 billion tonnes,
according to UNFC. The resources are spread over the following
states: Kerala with around 25%, followed by West Bengal and
Rajasthan (16% each), and Odisha and Karnataka (10% each).
Of these resources, about 22% or 608 million tonnes are
ceramic grade, 4% are classified under chemical, paper filler
and cement grades, and about 73% or 1,980 million tonnes fall
under mixed grade, other, unclassified and not-known
Quartz, silica sand
At around 3.499 billion tonnes, India holds significant
quartz and silica sand resources. Foundry and molding-grade
material make up approximately 19% of this figure, while glass
grade, ceramic grade and ferro-silicon grade make up 14%, 11%
and 5% respectively.
The majority, some 52%, of these resources are found in the
state of Haryana, followed by Rajasthan (9.5%), Tamil Nadu
(6.5%), Andhra Pradesh (6%), Maharashtra (5%), Jharkhand
(4.5%), and Karnataka and Gujarat (3% each).
There are approximately 269 million tonnes of total reserves
of talc (including steatite/soapstone) in India, with the
states of Rajasthan (49%) and Uttarakhand (29%) holding the
largest shares. The remaining 22% is distributed throughout
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand,
Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim
and Tamil Nadu.
The paper and textile grades account for around 22% of the
total resources, followed by insecticides (19%) and cosmetics
(13%). Reserves of ceramic and paint grades are negligible,
while other, unclassified and not-known grades account for
India has the second largest resources of sillimanite in the
world, totaling nearly 67 million tonnes. There are four
sillimanite mines in operation in the states of Andhra Pradesh,
Odisha, Kerala and Maharashtra.
India produced approximately 71,000 tonnes of sillimanite in
2015-16, up by about 6% from 2014-15.
In 2016, around 21% of domestically produced sillimanite was
exported, with the majority headed to China, Nepal, Japan and
Other industrial minerals in India
There are other important industrial minerals with
significant reserves in India, including bentonite (in the
states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Jammu
& Kashmir), corundum (in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh), calcite (in Andhra
Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Haryana,
Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat), fuller’s
earth (in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam,
Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka), garnet (in Tamil Nadu, Orissa,
Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala), pyrites (in Bihar,
Rajasthan, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Andhra
Pradesh), wollastonite (in Rajasthan and Gujarat) and zircon
(at the beach sands of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and
|Selected industrial minerals in
|Sources: Indian Bureau of Mines,
Author’s own knowledge,
Rare earths - an opportunity lost
India also produces large quantities of heavy-mineral sands
associated with monazite production. Significant rare earths
minerals found in India include ilmenite, sillimanite, garnet,
zircon, monazite and rutile, collectively called beach sand
According to estimates by the Indian Beach Minerals
Producers Association, the downstream rare-earth mineral
industry could earn about 500 billion rupees ($7.71 billion) of
foreign exchange if proper government support were
"Government policy on rare earth minerals has blocked the
development of this sub-segment of the industrial minerals
industry," a senior management member at industrial mineral
supplier VV Minerals told Industrial Minerals on the condition
"Rare-earth minerals were taken off the proscribed
substances list in 2006. However, and for some reason, the
government has again put these minerals on the proscribed
substances list. So, in fact the country has actually gone
backwards," the source added.
"No one is getting the licenses. [The have] been reserved
specifically for Public Sector Undertakings [Indian Rare Earth
Company and Kerala Minerals] through the department of atomic
energy," the source said.
VV Minerals produces 700,000 tonnes per year of heavy
minerals, including garnet abrasive, ilmenite, zircon, rutile,
sillimanite and leucoxene. The company controls a 40km beach
area containing continuous placer mineral deposits plus another
7,000 acres of land rich in heavy minerals.
Indian Rare Earths (IRE) operates a mineral sands separation
plant at Chavara in Kerala to produce rare earth minerals.
Kerala Minerals & Metals, a Kerala state-government
undertaking, is also mining beach sands minerals.
In 2016, IRE ramped up capacity at its Odisha plant to
11,000 tpy of mixed rare-earth chlorides (MREC) from monazite
India imported about 550 tonnes of rare-earth compounds and
450 tonnes of rare-earth metals in 2016. The
country’s exports of rare-earth compounds were 440
tonnes in the same year.
Regulatory, infrastructure hurdles
Growth in several sub-segments of the industrial minerals
industry has lagged the country’s overall economic
growth. This is because India’s mining industry is
confronted with several hurdles, such as inadequate
infrastructural facilities in terms of transport or logistics
facilities, regulatory challenges and policy gridlocks,
corruption and social unrest.
Many planned projects have faced delays due to issues
related to land acquisitions, mining leases, forest clearances,
and relief and rehabilitation.
Industrial minerals are generally low-priced commodities
compared with metals and are mined in bulk. To a large extent,
their economic viability is highly dependent on transport
costs. A large part of India, especially the resource-rich
states, has very poor infrastructure, which has added to the
total cost of extracting industrial minerals.
India’s share of industrial minerals in the
international market is very low. But greater government
attention to the development of industrial minerals and the
provision of incentives could help the industry reach an export
market worth 10 billion rupees per year by the end of the
2019-20 financial year, compared with 3 billion rupees in
Currently, only bentonite, barites and feldspar are exported
from the country in sizable quantities.