India, if not very rich, is fairly rich in mineral resources. We possess good deposits of most of the mineral elements which are needed in large quantities by a technologically advanced society.lt is often our inability to explore, excavate and extract the required metal which is responsible for the Shortage, not the lack of deposits.
Iron minerals which are the most important ingredient of today’s economy are found in sufficient quantity in our country. We are not only producing sufficient amounts of iron ore for our own use but are presently exporting it to other countries.
Starting from a meagre 3.0 million tons of ore production in 1950 A.D., we are now producing about 55 million tons of iron ore (1993-94). However, Indian steel industry has been reared in highly sheltered state, free from competition. Though it has provided for the developmental needs of our country so far, it will not be unfair to say that Indian Steel industry has not developed satisfactorily. We still have to import finished high quality steel from outside.
Aluminium reserves in India have been estimated to be about 2650 million tons, out of which about 1890 million tons are of rich metallurgical grade. Our country ranks fifth among the Aluminium rich countries of the world. Production of Aluminium rose from about 4 thousand tons in 1950 to 511 thousand tons in 1991-92. At present we have sufficient aluminum stock for the domestic market. We are exporting it to other countries as well.
Copper ores are in short supply in India. We have already run out of our good quality deposits of copper. Hindustan Coppers Ltd. is the sole producer of the primary metal in India. Malanjkhand Copper mines have been estimated to contain about 275 million tons of copper ore.
Average grade of ore worked out in India contains about 1.23% of the metal whereas ores worked out in other countries such as Zambia, Chile or Peru have about 3.2% of metal content. Imported copper is, therefore, cheaper than the copper produced in our country. Removal of import tax on copper which has so far enjoyed Government protection shall affect the viability of Indian copper Industry adversely.
As far as identified till date, Zinc-Lead ore reserves in India are estimated to be about 390 million tons. However, mineable reserves, the bulk of which is localised in Rajasthan, are about 167 million tons only, with 8.16% of zinc and about 2.17% of lead content. Hindustan Zinc Ltd. a public sector metal producer has a dominant role in the development of zinc-lead industry in India.
Zinc production is about 149 thousand tons and lead production is about 65 thousand tons in India (1993). Hindustan Zinc Ltd. has emerged as one of the major Zinc and Lead producers in the world. However, good quality ores of these elements are being depleted at a fast rate and this has caused the Indian products to be costly as compared to the imported zinc and lead which are cheaper because of a slump in world market these days.
Metallurgical grade ores of number of rare metals are available in India. These usually occur along with deposits of other metals as complex mixtures. Important among these metal reserves are those of silver, cobalt, cadmium, chromium, manganese, tin, titanium zirconium etc.
However, for many of these elements we have to look to other countries as their mining and processing has not been done in our country. Surveys & feasibility studies for extraction of these metals are in progress and for some metals we have already set up the extraction process. Though we may not be self- sufficient at present, it is certain that in near future we shall be able to produce large quantities of these elements in our country.