The Government has amended rules that had allowed private companies to mine rare earth minerals found in the sands along India’s coastline.
This comes just weeks after the government move to canalise exports of beach sand minerals through public sector firm Indian Rare Earths Ltd, which restricted the operations of private sector miners of beach sand minerals such as garnet, leucoxene, sillimanite, ilmenite, zircon and monazite.
As per a Gazette notification by the Union Ministry of Mines dated February 20, 2019, the Centre has changed
the rules that earlier allowed private companies to mine rare earth minerals found in the beach sands.
“All cases of Beach Sand Minerals and other placer deposits in association with monazite are notified as above threshold (i.e. the threshold is 0.00% monazite in Total Heavy Minerals), irrespective of monazite grade,” the notification said.
Rare earth minerals are present along the coastlines of states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha. These minerals include monazite — an atomic mineral that can be processed to yield thorium, which can be combined with a fissile material like plutonium to develop nuclear fuel and is central to India’s three-stage nuclear energy programme.
Monazite is present in varying grades and concentrations along the coastlines, especially in Kerala.
In an earlier amendment to these rules in 2016, the Centre had fixed a maximum concentration of 0.75 per cent monazite in the beach sands, exceeding which, private miners were disallowed from mining.