For India, a recent development may turn its minerals industry on its head.
Scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI), a department under the Ministry of Mines, recently discovered millions of tons of precious stones and minerals under the deep waters that surround peninsular India.
What’s more, the discovery lies within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which means India will benefit the most.
It was sometime in 2014 that the scientists found the huge presence of marine resources off the Indian coast, extending till the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and around Lakshadweep. The amount of lime mud, phosphate-rich and calcareous sediments, hydrocarbons, metalliferous deposits and micronodules called for a more extensive exploration, and that’s precisely what the GSI team did.
After three years of exploration, they hit paydirt.
GSI has generated 181,025 square kilometers of high-resolution seabed morphological data and established the find of over 10,000 million tons of lime mud, the Times of India reported. It confirmed the presence of lime mud, phosphate-rich sediments, gas hydrate in the channel-levee system of Mannar Basin off the Tamil Nadu coast, micro-manganese nodules around Lakshadweep Sea and cobalt-bearing ferro-manganese crust from the Andaman Sea.
India has targeted the completion of advanced exploration across 73 mineral blocks during 2017-18. According to a Ministry of Mines document, total mineral production, except coal, during 2016-17 was put at 192-million tons, which was “not too far from the highest-ever level of 218-million tons achieved in 2009/10.” Since the legislative environment changed and auctions were made compulsory from 2015 onwards, the total revenue generated through the auction of 27 major mineral blocks has been pegged at U.S. $18.61 billion.
The GSI, meanwhile, is thinking of acquiring one more research vessel to add to its current fleet of three. GSI is in the process of sea-bed mapping, which involves profiling of sea bed, sampling of sea bed at regular intervals and involves complete scanning of sea beds within territorial waters and beyond territorial waters. It was the mineral investigation cruise, taken up as part of an annual program of GSI, that had established occurrence of valuable offshore minerals like lime mud and phosphorite.
The Indian government was also thinking along the lines of introducing a public-private partnership (PPP) model for mineral exploration in the country. Piyush Goyal, union minister of state for power, coal, new and renewable energy and mines, told a recent conference that the “time was ripe to reflect on where we had gone wrong and suggested a PPP model could be tried out for giving a fillip to mineral exploration.”