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Mining Industry in India

Minerals constitute the back-bone of economic growth of  any nation and India has been eminently endowed with this gift of na­ture. There are many evidence that exploitation of minerals like coal, iron-ore, copper,  lead-zinc has been going on in the country from time immemorial.  However, the first recorded history of mining in India  dates back to 1774  when  an English  Company was granted permission by the East India Company for mining coal in Raniganj.  M/s  John Taylor & Sons Ltd. started gold mining in Kolar Gold Fields in the year 1880.  The first oil well was drilled in Digboi in the year 1866 - just seven years after the first ever oil well was  drilled anywhere in the world viz.  in Pennsylvania State, USA in 1859.

Mining activities in the country however remained  primitive  in  nature and  modest in scale uptill the beginning of the current century. Thereafter,  with progressive industrialisation the  demand  for and  hence  the production of various minerals gradually went up. After India became independent,  the growth of mining  under  the impact  of  successive Five Year Plans has been very fast.  There are ambitious plans in coal, metalliferous  and oil sectors to  in­crease  production of minerals during the 8th Five Year Plan and thereafter.

Coal : Deposits and  Exploration

India’s major workable coal deposits occur in two distinct stratigraphic horizons - Permian, commonly known as "Gondwana" coals and the Tertiary. About 99% of the country’s coal resources are found within a great succession of fresh water sediments. The major coalfields are represented by isolated basins which occur along prominent present day river valleys, viz., Damodar, Koel, Sone-Mahanadi, Pench-Kanhan, Pranhita-Godavari. Nearly 50 coalfields, varying in size from a few km2 to as much as 1500 km2  are known today, barring the small and lenticular occurrences of coal along the Himalayan foothills.

Coals of practically all ranks occur in India except peat and anthracite. The share of lignite, however, is insignificant as compared to sub-bituminous and bituminous coal. Indian bituminous coals are broadly divided into two categories, cooking and non-cooking.

Coal exploration in India even today is largely being carried out by conventional methods of systematic geological mapping followed by drilling, core drilling playing a dominant role. However, in the recent times modern exploration techniques like photo-geology, remote sensing, non-coring drilling, geophysical surveys etc. are being increasingly used for detailed and precise exploration.

Coal Reserves

The total coal reserves of the country have been estimated from time to time.

  • Proved Reserves:In this case, the reserves are estimated from dimensions revealed in outcrops, trenches, mine workings and boreholes and the extension of the same for reasonable distance not exceeding 200m on geological evidence. Where little or no exploratory work has been done, and where the outcrop exceeds one km in length, another line drawn roughly 200m in from outcrop will define a block of coal that may be regarded as proved on the basis of geological evidence.
  • Indicated Reserves : In the case of indicated reserves, the points of observation are 1,000 m  apart, but may be 2,000 m for beds of known geological continuity . Thus a line drawn 1,000 to 2,000 m from an outcrop will demarcate the block of coal to be regarded as indicated. 
  • Inferred reserves : This refers to coal for which quantitative estimates are based largely on broad knowledge of the geological character of the bed, but for which there are no measurements. The estimates are based on an assumed continuity for which there is geological evidence, and more than 1,000 to 2,000 m from the outcrop.
  • Lignite Resources : The total lignite deposit of the country is estimated at about 2800 million tonnes, out of which the major deposit is occurring in Tamilnadu ( 2500 million tonnes). The remaining lignite deposits are found in Gujrat, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan. Further exploration activities indicate availability of additional lignite resources in Rajasthan, Gujrat and Tamilnadu.

Mineral Resources (Other than Coal & Oil)

India is largely self sufficient in most of the minerals which include barytes, bauxite, chromite, dolomite, fluorspar, gypsum, iron ore, kyanite, limestone, manganese ore, magnesite, sillimanite, etc. except the minerals like copper, asbestos, lead and zinc, natural phosphates, sulphur and crude petroleum, in which domestic production meets the demand only partially.

India is rich in the resources of minerals like iron ore, bauxite, manganese, baryte etc. It has resources of 12745 million tonnes of iron ore, 2,525 million tonnes of bauxite, 76446 million tonnes of limestone, 233 million tonnes of magnesite, 167 million tonnes of lead & zinc ore, 70 million tonnes of barytes, 176 million tonnes of manganese ore and 90 million tonnes of chromite. The reserves of iron ore, bauxite and manganese accounts for nearly 7 per cent, 16% and 6% respectively of the total known global resources of these minerals. India possesses the largest known reserves of barytes in the world.

Oil Resources

India has prognosticated hydrocarbon reserves of more than 17 billion tonnes of which only about 5 billion tonnes have been converted into geological in-place reserves. This brings out the magnitude of exploratory efforts still to be carried out.

Operating Mines

India has a unique blend of big and small, manual and mechanized, open cast and underground mines. The total number of working coal mines as on date are 572, in oil sector there are 29 oil projects excluding installations off-shore beyond territorial waters. As far as metalliferous mines are concerned the number of mines which are submitting returns stands at about 2,500. However, there are many more mines which are small in size, seasonal in nature and which are not submitting the statutory returns, a fair estimate indicates that total number of metalliferous mines are about 6000. Total workforce of the mining industry in India consists of about one million workers.

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