India has taken another step in the production of titanium sponge when the well-known public sector steel producer, the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), signed an agreement with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corp (KSIDC) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) to jointly set up an approximately US $458 million plant to produce titanium sponge and metals, according to the Times of India.
Titanium sponge is a porous substance formed in the first stage of the processing of the naturally available titanium.
Titanium is known for its excellent corrosion resistance, high strength and low-density properties, which make it widely used in the manufacture of civilian and military aircraft. Titanium-alloy components are also used in satellite launch vehicles, rockets and missiles.
(Ed. Note: It also happens to be a strategic/critical metal to the United States, as our friends at the American Resources Policy Network put it at the top of their Risk Pyramid.)
The new JV will be the second major titanium project in Kerala. The KMML already runs one titanium sponge plant in collaboration with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the Defense Metallurgical Research Laboratory.
The new venture will be a two-phase production plant. First, efforts will be made to produce 10,000 tons of titanium sponge, after which the same will be used to make between 18,000 to 40,000 tons of the titanium metal itself. KMML will supply the titanium tetrachloride required for the production of the sponge.
Until about 2011, the technical know-how for the production of titanium sponge was available in seven nations, including Japan, the US, Russia and other former Soviet nations, the UK and China. Even today, much of India’s total titanium requirement was being met by imports.
But India joined the league of seven nations in September 2011 when production at the first Kerala plant by KMML had started. The first plant uses technology provided by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), and has a capacity to produce 500 metric tons of titanium sponge annually, and the capability of enhancing the capacity to 1,000 metric tons.
The country possesses a large reserve base of titanium minerals. Ilmenite (FeO.TiO2), an important titanium mineral, is available in large amounts along India’s coastline, much of it in the coastal state of Kerala. With proven reserves of over 270 million tons, about 37 percent of the world’s ilmenite reserves are located on Southern Indian beaches.
Sohrab Darabshaw contributes an Indian perspective to MetalMiner.