A ban on private exports of mineral sands
from India will hit private production of titanium dioxide
ores, zircon and garnet, the chief executive of Indian miner VV
minerals, S Vaikundarajan, warned.
Vaikundarajan also downplayed the
company’s legal dispute with the state of Tamil
Nadu over allegations of illegal mining and the illegal export
In comments made by Vaikundarajan to
Fastmarkets IM in January 2019, he hit out against the
country’s canalisation policy.
Having liberalised the mineral sands
sector two decades earlier, the Indian government opted in
August 2018 to canalise exports of mineral sands through
state-run entity Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL).
"The new policy… is a blow to
private companies like us," he said. "We have made huge capital
investments by way of technology, production facilities and
established significant share in global markets."
The tightening of regulation on the Indian
mineral sand sector has sharply reduced the availability of
ilmenite, rutile and zircon from that country.
Rival miner Kenmare said in January 2019
that Indian ilmatite supply had halved from 2017, when it
accounted for around 7% of global market share.
The tightening could also threaten rutile
supply, which is currently squeezed.
On February 14 Fastmarkets IM assessed the
price of rutileconcentrate
min 95% TiO2 bulk CIF China at $1,050-1,100 per tonne, up
from $850-950 per tonne a year earlier.
A ban on private exports of these minerals
from India would effectively put a stop to mining of these
minerals, reducing their availability on the world stage,
"We should not forget that it was the
private sector players, who helped Indian mineral beach
industry to achieve the current scales," he said, noting that
production has boomed since the entry of private players into
the mineral sand sector in 1998.
As a competitor to private firms, IREL has
little incentive to encourage exports, Vaikundarajan
"Private producers like us have spent
millions of dollars and more than 20 years in developing
foreign clients," said. "But the recent move by the government
will nullify our efforts if the export of beach minerals
continues to be through IREL."
VV Minerals is fighting legal cases
relating to the alleged illegal mining of mineral sands, the
alleged illegal export of monazite and a tax raid carried out
by the national tax body late last year.
The state of Tamil Nadu, where VV Minerals
operates, claims that the company is one several mineral sand
companies that conduct illegal mining operations and the export
of monazite - allegations that it refutes.
"Income tax raids are an unavoidable
matter of life in India and are always conducted in the glare
of tipped-off media exposure," Vaikundarajan told Fastmarkets
IM late last month.
"It is not only business that is subject
to these types of raids but it is also a regular feature of
political life and again such raids are conducted in the full
glare of the media who always seem to know in advance of the
raids," he said. "For the media it is good copy and sells print
and air time."
Vaikundarajan disputes local media reports
that more than 85 million rupees ($1.2 million) in cash were
seized in these raids, along with other assets.
"There were no assets seized except our
computers are always taken away, copied and then returned," he
In total, he says, the authorities seized
34.8 million rupees, an amount that Vaikundarajan described as
"not excessive" given the number of business units associated
with VV Minerals as well as the fact that everyday business
transactions in India are often conducted in cash.
Vaikundarajan also hit out at a report
submitted to the Madras High Court in 2018 on the monazite
content of mined but unsold mineral sand. The report used an
outdated standard for measuring monazite content, he
While the report "found stocks of tailings
containing elevated amounts of monazite as expected in mineral
sands operations worldwide, all were stored as required by the
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board," Vaikundarajan also
Monazite is a controlled material in India
due to its thorium content. Thorium is used in
India’s nuclear programme.