By Prof. Dr. PK Jena
Odisha is among the leading states of India when it comes to possession of natural resources. The state has a large share of almost all major mineral resources of the country. Important minerals like coal, iron ore, bauxite, chromite, manganese ore, ilmenite etc. are quite abundant in the state along with other resources like land, water and manpower.
The state has got 27% of India’s coal, 26% of iron ore, 65% of bauxite, 31.7% of manganese ore, 98.3% of chromite, 95.1% of nickel ore, 20.7% of ilmenite and 76.67% graphite out of the total reserves of these minerals in India. Possessing all these high-grade and valuable minerals and other resources, Odisha should have been the leading state of India producing large amounts of thermal energy as well as various types of metals and alloys including steel, aluminium, ferro alloys and other valuable metals like vanadium, titanium, zirconium etc. But, the situation for the development of mineral based industries in the state is quite unfavorable due to various reasons.
Some of the important problems which have crept in during recent years to retard the development of mineral based industries in Odisha are:
- Unscientific mining by most of the mine owners has resulted in loss of large amounts of good grade ores in form of fines.
- In spite of excellent scope for producing large amounts of sponge iron using abundantly available good grade iron ore and non coking coal, most of the sponge iron industries are sick due to want of raw materials.
3. Though Odisha possesses more than 65% of India’s total reserve of bauxite, most of the aluminium production units are running much below their capacity due to want of bauxite.
4. In spite of having unique opportunities for producing high valued ferro alloys like ferro nickel, ferro titanium and ferro vanadium, Odisha has practically no industries to meet the growing demands of these alloys in the country.
5. A large number of mineral industries in Odisha are producing much below their capacity not only for want of raw materials but also for want of other essential items like energy and water.
6. Another most important deterrent in the development of mineral based industries is the lack of proper coordination between various concerned departments of the state resulting in delay in the implementation of the project.
7. Existing industries frequently fail to implement their commitments in environment management plan resulting in stiff resistance from the local people.
8. Most of the time, the industries do not implement properly the committed programmes under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), resulting in unrest in the area.
9. Industries share a large portion of river water bringing them into conflict with the villagers and farmers
10. The state is lacking long-range programmes for development of various mineral based industries keeping in view the needs of the state and the country.
Steps for facilitating the growth of Mineral Based Industries:
In order to conserve and judiciously utilize the mineral resources available in the state for developing mineral based industries, the following measures need due consideration:
- Extensive and systematic survey and location of new reserves of various types of minerals – mainly coal, iron and manganese ore, chromite and bauxite – as well as other non ferrous metallic minerals have to be carried out.
- Mining practices should be modernized. Both high and low-grade ores have to be mined and utilized suitably. For example, in India, iron ore containing less than 50% iron are rejected as waste whereas in some other countries it is considered as a valuable raw material. Therefore, mineral resources below the cut off grade should be preserved for the future or utilized by applying techno-economically viable beneficiation processes.
- Efforts should be made to develop techno-economically viable mining practices for harnessing the minerals from smaller deposits. Mining of even small deposits of non ferrous metals should be undertaken and utilized for extracting the respective metals as the reserves of nonferrous minerals are very limited in the country.
- In order to increase the production of minerals, mining to greater depths, as practiced in some developed countries like Australia, should be adopted.
- Every effort should be made to upgrade the low-grade ores or blend those with the high-grade ones for their maximum utilization.
- In all cases, the washery slimes and beneficiation tailings should be further processed for recovering the remaining mineral values as far as possible.
- Beneficiation and agglomeration units should be as far as possible at the mine sites of the concerned minerals with arrangements for harvesting rain water, recycling the used water and using or disposing the wastes along with overburden for road construction or back filling the mines. In this process, the water scarcity, waste of minerals during transportation and pollution problems can be solved.
- The wastes of other mineral processing and metallurgical industries should also be examined to process and recover the metal values and then the remaining wastes should be utilized as construction materials or back filling the mined areas. This would not only help in minimizing the pollution problems but also conserve the resources.
- In India the amount of non-coking coal is much more compared to the coking ones. It is advisable to produce more and more iron in the form of sponge iron through reduction of iron ore by using non-coking coal as such or through their gasification.
- In order to produce high valued special alloy steels, necessary steps should be taken to utilize the indigenous non ferrous minerals containing metals like nickel, vanadium, titanium etc. or through imports of these metal scraps, so that these can be utilized to produce various special steels for meeting their growing demands in the country.
- Environment Friendly Best Available Technology (EFBAT) has to be adopted for producing various metals and alloys so that it can be possible to produce these in a clean environment and to sell the products at a competitive price in the international market.
- The culture of “exporting raw materials” should be changed urgently to the culture of “exporting value added products” like special steels, aluminium and its alloys, machineries and equipment. It may be pertinent to mention here that, though our chromite reserves is only 2 – 3% of world’s reserve, yet we export a large amount of this instead of high valued chromium or chromium alloys.
- In order to commission projects in time, proper plans and their execution should be made by assigning the projects to the proper entrepreneurs in package form with the infrastructural facilities, including permission for land, water, electricity, transport system, supply of quality raw materials, facilities for marketing the products and helping in training the personnel.
- In areas of both mining and setting up mineral based industries, sufficient care should be taken to properly implement the Corporate Social Responsibility programmes (CSR), particularly for the displaced families. This would go a long way in timely commissioning of the mines and running the industries smoothly.
Before it is too late, the Government of Odisha should take necessary steps in developing and conserving mineral resources and assisting the organizations concerned for setting up mineral based industries at suitable sites keeping in view the needs of the country. The other raw materials like land, power and water should be developed and made available as per the requirements of the industries without affecting the interests of the local people and the farmers. The road, rail, river and sea transportation systems for transporting raw materials and finished goods should be properly planned and developed as per the requirements. Industries should be very sincere in their own interest to start projects in time and give due importance to their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) obligations and maintaining the environment of the region clean. In this way the poor Odisha can be transformed in to a rich state.
* The author is a former Director General of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Chairman, Institute of Advance Technology & Environmental Studies (IATES) and President, Natural Resources & Development Foundation (NRDF)
He can be reached at [email protected]