Atomic minerals are the most recent source of energy which can provide substitute for coal, mineral oil and hydro-electricity. These provide colossal energy through a small quantity of substance. For example, one ounce of uranium releases as much of energy as generated by 100 metric tons of coal.
Atomic minerals, because of their less weight, can be easily transported to far off places to build nuclear power plants, more so in areas which are deficient in other energy resources. Uranium, thorium, beryllium, zircon and limonite etc are atomic miner; which are utilised to generate nuclear energy.
India ranks 10th in respect of uranium reserves (about 78,000 tones) in the world. It occurs as disseminations and impregnations in the Archaean crystalline schist's and Pre-Cambrian metamorphosed slates and Phillies in Bihar and some parts of the Himalayas (from Kullu valley toGarhwal Himalaya); in pegmatite's of Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh; and monazite sands along Kerala coast, (i) Uranium in Bihar is found at Pichli near Abraki Pahar in Gaya district and near Sunrgai and Dalbhum area in Singhbhum district.
Jaduguda, Bhatin and Narwapahar mines (Singhbhum district) under the Uranium Corporation of India are the only mines worked at present. These handle about 1,500 tonnes of ore per day. The ore body ranges from 2.5 m breadth to 15 m. (ii) In Rajasthan uranium occurs in the rocks 6f the Aravalli synclinorium in Bisundi area of Ajmer district and at Umra near Udaipur. (iii) In Andhra Pradesh it is found at Sankar in Nellore district, (iv) In Karnataka its traces have been located at Yedur near Bangalore, (v) Deposits of uranium have also been traced in the Himalayan region from Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Rampur (Himalaya).
In Uttaranchal it also occurs in phosphoresce formations over a length of5, 500 m from Bandel to JhandaDhar in Mussorie hills in Dehradun district, (vi) Other areas include Gondwana, Sarguja and Durg (Chhattisgarh); Kolian copper mine in Jhunjhunu districtof Rajasthan and Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
The limonite beach sands ofChaughat-Blangad and Veliyangad in Palakkad district and Chavara in Kollam district of Kerala; and Manawalankurichi in Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu also contain some amount of uranium oxide.
The Atomic Minerals Division (AMD) has been engaged in the exploration of nuclear minerals. Presently three uranium mines at Jaduguda, Bhatin and Narwapahar in Bihar are operated by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), a public sector undertaking of DAE. It also runs two plants at Rakha and Mosaboni to recover uranium from copper tailings from the Hindustan Copper Plant and has established a plant to recover copper concentrate and molybdenum as by-products at Jaduguda. All these units are situated in Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.
Thorium is as fertile as uranium in the generation of nuclear energy. It mainly occurs in the form of thorianite (38-80% of thorium), allanite (3% of thorium) and monazite (upto 18% of thorium). Allanite has wide occurrence in Tamil Nadu (Melur in Madurai, and Kadavur), Bihar (Hazaribagh-Pero, Barabar, Parsabad, Dhabuadih), Rajasthan (Bhilwara- Kareliya and Sardarpura) and Andhra Pradesh (in Archaen gneisses and granites of Balaguda, Ulliladra and Pedda Mariki). But these deposits are seldom workable.
In India large reserves of thorium are found in the monazite sands of Kerala (Palakkad and Kollam Districts), Tamil Nadu (Kanniyakumari district), Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam), and Orissa. India is rich in respect of thorium deposits whose total reserves are estimated at 4, 50,000 tones.
Monazite is a compound of thorium, uranium, cerium and lanthanum, etc. The mineral is extracted from the sand by washing and magnetic separation. Its thorium content varies from 8 to 18%. Monazite is valued for its thorium content, which is converted into nitrate and used in the manufacture of incandescent gas mantles, radio tubes and pyrophoric alloys.
Monazite occurs in the pegmatites of Gaya and Munger districts of Bihar; near Yadiyar in Karnataka; in the Kolab river area of Koraput district in Orissa; in the Soniana mine in Udaipur district of Rajasthan; and in Lalitpur and Jhansi districts of Uttar Pradesh. But none of these deposits are of commercial importance. Workable deposits of monazite are found in the beach sands of Kerala (between Chaughat and Ponnai in a 160 km long belt in Kollam and Palakkad districts); Tamil Nadu (Knniyakumari.TirunelveliandThanjavurdistricts); Andhra Pradesh (Coastal tracts of Waltair, Bimlipatnam, Narasipatnam and Vishakhapatnam); and Orissa (near Mahanadi mouth and between Chilka lake and Chicacola river in Cuttack and Ganjam districts). India has the largest reserve of monazite deposits in the world. It is estimated at 5 million tones, containing about 4, 50,000 tones of thorium and 15,000 tons of uranium.
It is obtained from beryl which occurs in pegmatite veins of mica bearing rocks. The ore- content varies from 10-12 per cent. Beryllium in India is found in the states of Bihar, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh (Nellore), Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim. It is used in the manufacture of copper-beryllium alloy and in atomic energy reactors as a moderator. The annual output is about 1,000 tonnes.
Its chief ore is zircon which is mainly associated with igneous rocks. It is found, with baddeleyite, as residual grains in limonite sands in large amounts (over 10 million tons), and less commonly with uranium minerals and with triplet in the mica mines of Gaya (Bihar) and in the nepheline-syenites of Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu). Large reserves of zircon are found in the beach sands between Kollam and Kanniyakumari, and in the coastal tracts of Tirunel veli, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur and Vishakhapatnam districts with ore contents between 2.7 and 8.7 per cent.
It occurs on the beaches of the Kerala and Tamil Nadu coasts as black heavy sand, along with monazite, zircon and other heavy minerals. The largest deposits are on the Kerala beaches between Kanniyakumari and Kollam with estimated reserves of over 250 million tons (Wadia, 1975, p.451- 452). Smaller patches of the sand concentrates occur at Ratnagiri and further north on the Malabar Coast and also on the east coast at Tuticorin, Waltair and Ganjam. A large quantity of ilmenite sand occurs as alluvial placer deposit on parts of the Hazaribagh plateau (Bihar), in Purulia district near Hesla, Baghmundi, Jhalda and Banaspahar (West Bengal) and in some stream sections of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The total reserves of limonite in the country are estimated at 365 million tones.
It is found is Lahaul and Kangra districts of Himachal Pradesh and Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh.
It is mainly found in the crystalline and meta- morphic rocks of the Peninsula, in pegmatite and other veins, and as lenticular masses in some schist's and gneisses. Important deposits occur in Kalahandi, Bolangir, Ganjam and Koraput districts of Orissa; Warangal, West Godavari, Visakhapatnam and
Khammam districts of Andhra Pradesh; Tirund district in Tamil Nadu; Jaipur and Ajmerdistrii Rajasthan; Gurgaon district in Haryana; All district in Uttaranchal; Mysore district in Kama Bhagalpur district in Bihar; Uri district in J and Kashmir; and Sunchtag area of Sikkim. The' of the supply comes from Orissa (50%), Bihar(' and Andhra Pradesh (18%) states.
It is a source of helium and is used in manufacture of hydrogen bomb. It is mainly foil the ores of lepidolite, and spodumen ambligoni deposits have been located in Munger, Haz (Bihar), Bhilwara (Rajasthan), and at Gund Bastar (Chhattisgarh) districts. Its production yet to start in the country.
The Indian Rare Earths (IRE), a public sec E undertaking of the Deptt. Of Atomic Energy (DA L has been engaged, since 1950, in mining and probing of mineral sands containing thorium andip earth minerals. The company has three minerals separation plants at Manavalakurichi, Chavarai I Chhatrapur which produce ilmenite, rutile, monazi zircon and garnet. In addition to this, a Rare Ear I Plant in Alwaye produces rare earths chlorides.