Bengaluru: India to explore offshore for sand, rare earths

Bengaluru, Sep 24 (IANS) India will allot about 80 offshore blocks in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal for exploration of sand and rare earth minerals, a senior official said on Thursday.

“We will allot about 80 blocks located off the eastern and western coasts in the country’s economic zones in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal for offshore exploration of sand and rare earth minerals,” Mines Secretary Balwinder Kumar said at a mining conference here.

With natural sand from river banks and lakes becoming scarce due to mounting demand from massive construction activity across the country, the government has decided to explore offshore resources to bridge the supply gap.

The ministry has also floated an RFP (request for proposal) to appoint a global consultant by October for airborne geophysical and electro-magnetic surveys of around eight-lakh square kilometers in potential areas.

“We have three years timeline to conduct airborne surveys for regional and detailed exploration in states having rich mineral resources,” Kumar told about 500 delegates participating in the three-day Mining, Exploration and Trade Show, the industry’s annual event at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre here.

Lamenting that mineral exploration spend in India was less than one percent as against 14 percent in Canada, 12 percent in Australia and six percent in China, Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) president Noor said of the $10.4-billion global spend in 2014 by 3,300 exploration firms globally, 50 percent of it was on gold, 20 percent on copper, nine percent on nickel, five percent on lead-zinc and four percent on diamond.

“New mines have to be opened up to meet the increasing demand for basic industries such as steel, power and cement. Though we have abundant minerals like gold, copper, nickel and platinum group of minerals, we are still dependant on their imports, draining foreign exchange,” he added.

Union Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who flagged off the sixth edition of the event, said mining production had increased 25 percent to 12 million tonnes per month this fiscal (2015-16) from eight million tonnes in 2014-15.

Seven mineral-rich states and 100 state-run and private firms from across the country and six overseas countries are participating in conferences, special sessions and exhibition of the “Mining Mazma 2015”.

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