Wednesday 13 July 2016

Deposits on shore - A visit to VV Mineral, TN.

I often go to the beach to unwind. To listen to the waves splashing on the Marine Drive promenade is a bliss. It is monsoon. Families flock in on weekends to enjoy the beach splashes. Local fishermen gather around to catch crabs that splash in bundles. Some fish...for caviar. One such evening, made me smile to see a beggar in all smiles as he caught some juicy crabs for dinner. A rich one...I thought. As he packed and left merrily I could see the riches our oceans deposit!

Not just spices and silk routes, India is bestowed with a coastline of 7,500 kms. One such rich deposits are sand minerals. India has a vast source of beach sand minerals along eastern and western coast. Our deposits contain heavy minerals like ilmenite, rutile, garnet, monazite, zircon, and sillimanite. According to a geological survey, India accounts for 11% of global beach sand mineral deposits and are scientifically categorized as Rare EarthIn India, major beach sand deposits are found in the Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. This gift of nature has built successful industries and has offered employment to thousands.

Never had I ever thought I would have an opportunity to write about Rare Earth in India… I thought. Although a few days ago, I got invited to VV Mineral; India's largest manufacturer and exporter of garnet, ilmenite and sillimanite. Established in 1989, VVM is the first private company in India holding granted license for Mining and Exporting of Ilmenite from the Government of India. They have reached far across to achieve significant market shares in Europe, Middle East, East Asia, Australia and the USA.

VV Mineral has won the contract for 40 km stretch in India, thus resulting into a huge annual output of 700,000 metric tonnes of heavy minerals which include Garnet Abrasive, Ilmenite, Zircon, Rutile, Sillimanite and Leucoxene.


Garnet Abrasive is mainly used for Water Filtration, Sand Blasting, Water Jet Cutting, Surface Preparation and other applications.

Ilmenite is mainly used for manufacturing Titanium dioxide pigment. It is used in paper, plastic and airline industries. Recently, mobile manufacturer have also started using titanium for durability and light weight.

Rutile is mainly used for Welding Electrode and by Titanium metal and pigment industries.

Zircon is used for the production of opacifiers, glazes and frits, floor and decorative tiles, sanitary ware, glass and steel refractory, metal castings and specialised glass. Also, Sillimanite is used in refractories.

Monzonite can be used for nuclear reactors. In India, Monzonite is used in detergent chemicals, Colour TV tubes, florescent tubes etc.
I was glad that I had a chance to visit their 40 km beach mining area near Thisayenvillai next to the Kudankoolam nuclear plant. This is a natural beach and is being mined without causing any ecological harm. Garnet and other beach minerals is procured through manual labour. VVM believes in maximum rural employment and has the total employee strength of 3,000. The workers at VV Mineral use eco-friendly agricultural tools to procure beach sand minerals. One of the first processes is Sun Drying. 
They believe in using the power of sun instead of industrial dryers which adds up to their green initiative. Then, the beach sand is further processed in the nearest mineral separation plant. At VV Mineral, the used water is filtered and then used for agriculture and pisciculture. The left over sand is then scientifically dumped back at the beach.
What I saw at VV Mineral is making the most of out of basic science books with a sustainable business plan strengthening rural employment. People from nearby villages are employed and trained well. This not only adds to the rural employment but to the total number of skilled labour as well. VVM has a substantial potential to increase rural employment which in the end adds to India's GDP. People from the weaker financial background are empowered with active CSR campaign. VV Mineral is today a global brand in beach sand mining.
The beach sand mineral industry has the potential to feed India's ever increasing industrial and clean energy. It can be great impetus to a variety of industries like water filtration, Paper production, Plastic, Aeronautical machinery, Nuclear power generators. Ministry of Mining has taken positive steps to boost rare earth mining. The newly introduced mining policy will cut the time companies need to take permissions for exploration and allow them to receive royalties. In order to counter China, India plans to auction 100 blocks of mines. Beach Sand Minerals could in turn encourage local manufacturing of defence products, electronic equipments, textile etc. India has the potential to contribute 50% of world's production. Locally produced minerals for local and global manufacturing would account to PM’s #MakeInIndia campaign.

-Chaitanya Kulkarni


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