Goa’s iron ore reserves may exhaust within ten years, opine expert
Iron ore reserves in Goa may exhaust in another 10 years and if there are too many companies involved in mining and the pace of excavation is high, the stocks may not even last for five years, an expert said on Friday. “Unless new reserves are located, the current high-grade reserves of iron ore will not last for more than about 10 years,” Prof Ashoka Dessai, senior geologist and former professor of Goa University and Pune University, said.
“However, it depends on the rate of exploitation of the resources. If many companies are involved in mining and that too at a rapid pace, the iron ores might not survive even for five years,” Dessai, whose book titled “Geology and Mineral Resources of Goa” is set to be released on Sunday, said. Dessai’s book that touches upon the technical aspects of geology and the formation of resources in Goa, will be released here by Dr Sunil Kumar Singh, director of CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography. He advises that the coastal state should not “overexploit” the resources, as was the case before the Supreme Court put a ban on mining in 2012.
“We should fix the maximum quantum of ore that could be mined per year locally and accordingly take up the extraction activity so that the reserves would last longer. Simultaneously beneficiation/blending of low-grade ores as well as processing the ores from neighbouring state should be undertaken so as to extend the life of the industry and reap maximum benefits,” he said.
Prof Dessai said that there was a need to look for new reserves and new mineral materials in the state. “Suppose iron ore or manganese ore reserves are exhausted, then there would be a serious economic crisis. There will be unemployment. Therefore, it is essential that alternate mineral resources of other mineral commodities are prospected for,” he said. The researcher, who has mentored several geologists in Goa and in Pune, suggests alternatives such as laterites to make up for the void that would be created in case iron ore and manganese ore reserves dry up.
“When we speak about laterite, we think that it can be used only for construction activity. Laterites are known to host economic proportions of precious metals such as gold. Studies from parts of Goa have shown promising results from the lithomarge horizons. Now the issue is whether commercial extraction is viable or not,” he said. “Of late, laterites are being increasingly prospected for rare earth metals that find a variety of applications in lasers, computer memory modules, batteries, lamps, superconductors, aerospace, caustic cleaning agents, manufacture of specialised glass among others,” he said.
According to Dessai, India has been importing rare earth element concentrates from other countries like China. Being a strategic mineral resource, indigenous production can save the much-needed foreign exchange, in which laterites can play a significant role, like bauxite, which is mined from south Goa, he said. “The aluminium metal extracted from the ore of bauxite can also be another alternative as aluminium is used in many products, right from manufacturing of soft-drink cans to aeroplanes,” Dessai added.