William Clarke and Sunder Singh
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, has warned.
Vaikundarajan also downplayed the company’s
legal dispute with the state of Tamil Nadu over allegations of
illegal mining and the illegal export of monazite.
In comments made by Vaikundarajan to Fastmarkets in January
2019, he hit out against the country’s
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,"
Vaikundarajan said. "We have made huge capital investments
by way of technology and production facilities, and we have
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
ilmetite supply had halved from 2017, when it accounted for
around 7% of global market share.
The tightening could also threaten rutile supply, which is
On February 14, Fastmarkets IM assessed the price of rutile
concentrate 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, Vaikundarajan said.
"We should not forget that it was the private sector
players, who helped the 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 said.
"Private producers like us have spent millions of dollars
and more than 20 years in developing foreign clients," he said.
"But the recent move by the government will nullify our efforts
if the export of beach minerals continues to be through
|S. Vaikundarajan receives an award from Commerce
Minister Sudarsana Natchiappan.
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 in late January.
"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
which always seem to know in advance of the raids," he said.
"For the media it is good copy and sells print and air
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 said.
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 sands. He said the report used an outdated
standard for measuring monazite content.
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 said.
Monazite is a controlled material in India due to its thorium
content. Thorium is used in India’s nuclear