Indian Mining Sector
India is a very vast and extensive country; it spreads over an area of 3.29 million square kilometers, making it the seventh largest country in the world. The mining industry is the backbone of Industries in India, since it is the main source of raw material for most of the industries. India produces as many as 84 minerals comprising 4 fuels, 11 metallic, 49 non metallic and 20 minor minerals.
Indian Mining Sector-History
India's mining activities and development dates back to early stages of civilization. It can be traced back to nearly 6000 years. The existence of several old mine workings are a testimony to this fact. Some of these workings have significant mineral deposits, which are still active in present age. Few e.g. of such workings would be lead-zinc deposit at Zawar, copper deposit at Khetri and gold deposits in Karnataka. During ancient times India was well advanced in the process of smelting. The rust free iron pillar in New Delhi is believed to date back to the 4th century.
Indian Mining Sector-Before Independence
The industry began its operation in 1774, when the East India Company allowed an English company to undertake mining activity in the coalfield in Ranigang. In 1880 M/s John Taylor and Sons Ltd started gold mining at Kolar goldfields in Karnataka. In the year 1866 the first oil well was drilled in Digboi, Assam. Inspite of all these progress the Indian mining industry continued to be backward before independence.
Indian Mining Sector-After Independence
After Independence, the economic planners realized the importance of the mining sector for nation building. Before independence, the annual value of mineral production was just Rs 0.58 billion, with only a few minerals being mined. The nation was by and large dependent on imports of commodities such as copper, lead, zinc, sulphur, graphite, petroleum and their products.
With a view to intensify industrial development, the government initiated the Industrial Policy Resolution in 1956.The search for new mineral deposits were stepped up and the Geological Survey of India was granted greater power. The Government started the Indian Bureau of Mines to chalk out strategy to conserve the nations mineral resources.IBM was also given the task of searching for new mines with specific focus on coal, iron ore, limestone, dolomite and manganese. The role and responsibility of the IBM were transferred to the Mineral Exploration Corporation in 1972.
The Industrial Policy Resolution 1956 set a goal of improving many industries like steel, non-ferrous metals, cement, power, fertilizers etc. This resulted in an increased demand for minerals. The public sector enterprises were given the task of large scale production of various minerals. The production of lignite, petroleum and natural gas, copper, lead-zinc ores, gold, silver, diamond, tungsten concentrates, pyrites, rock phosphate were from mines under the control of public sector.
During the early stages of the mining industry, not much importance was given to mineral processing; as a result only high grade minerals were mined. With greater emphasis by the government on judicious use of minerals, mineral processing plants were installed. The National Metallurgical laboratory was established in 1950 to carry out mineral process tests. In the same year, the Metal Corporation of India installed the first mineral processing plant in the country to process lead-zinc ore. Throughout the 1950's a number of coal washeries were set up to process coking coal needed for steel plants.
Agenda Twenty One
Agenda Twenty One of Rio Conference and WTO agreement on World Trade are two most powerful tools to regulate world trade and commerce. The Green Agenda a subsection of Agenda 21 aims to preserve the natural resources for future generations. The Green Agenda aims to curtail mining activities. Since the environmental cost of mining is very high. Most of the Western countries have stopped or in the process of stopping mineral production. Instead these developed countries have resorted to importing cheaper minerals from developing countries.
The WTO believes countries not having the technical expertise in mineral process should refrain from such activities and should instead dependent on the technologically developed countries for mineral processing. This would have a negative effect on the economies of developing countries. The global outlook is in favour of the developed countries, against the developing countries. The Indian mining industry has to gear up to face the challenges posed by global changes, by being efficient in mineral processing at internationally competitive prices, to survive in future.