India is home to a myriad of metals and minerals. Globally, the country is the largest producer of sheet mica, the third largest producer of coal, the fourth largest producer of iron ore and the fifth largest producer of bauxite. Besides these natural resources, India also hosts significant reserves of copper, zinc, gold and about 26 other metallic and minor minerals. The Indian mining sector is largely state-dominated, but the government is now seeking a phased withdrawal of its participation from the non-strategic metal sector in order to encourage private players to take the centre stage.
The vast bulk of our built environment is formed from raw materials won from the earth by the extractive industries. Without the raw materials with which to build houses, hospitals, schools, factories, roads, etc., life would certainly be more basic and less comfortable than we presently experience. Quarrying or mining is an important practice in India. A quarry is a type of open surface working from which virgin rock or minerals are extracted, each quarry is very different and will use different types of quarry equipment. The design and general running operation of a quarry depends on the type of rock being extracted, the general environment surrounding the quarry, the size of the quarry and the geography and geology of the general area.Drilling and blasting are two important parts of the quarrying process. Marble, granite, sandstone, gravel, limestone etc are all quarried. Stone quarrying is the multistage process by which rock is extracted from the ground and crushed to produce aggregate, which is then screened into the sizes required for immediate use, or for further processing.
Mineral processingis the practice of beneficiating valuable minerals from their ores. Industrial mineral treatment processes usually combine a number of unit operations in order to liberate and separate minerals by exploiting the differences in physical properties of the different minerals that make up an ore. Mineral processing involves four general types of operations: comminution or particle size reduction, sizing or separation of particle sizes by screening or classification, concentration by taking advantage of physical and surface chemical properties, and dewatering or solid/liquid separation. Ore processingis generally crushing and separating ore into valuable substances or waste by any of a variety of techniques. The processing of the ore is often just as challenging and expensive, which takes place in refineries, smelters and mills.
India’s mining sector will continue to post impressive over the forecast period driven by strong domestic demand. The long-term prospects of the sector like that of the Indian economy remain very positive. However, in 2009 growth in US dollar terms stood at just 1.6%, while growth in 2009 is expected to be negligible as the global economic crisis impacts exports in key sectors such as iron ore, bauxite and copper. The market should return to strength in 2010, and by 2013, it is forecast by analyst that the mining industry will reach a total value of US$45.40billion. In April 2009, it was reported by Bloomberg that Indian iron ore exports would drop by at least 25% in the fiscal year, after competitors began offering major price discounts.
India has one of the largest reserves ofgranite in the world and exported Rs 2,600 crore (Rs 26 billion) worth of thestone last year. Granite exports this fiscal are expected to touch Rs 2,800 crore (Rs 28 billion) and nearly one-fourth of these exports is accounted for by monument stones.
Indian granite exports have declined 33 per cent between 2006-07 and 2008-09. The sector, which relies heavily on American and European demand, was among the first to feel the heat of the sub-prime crisis. Its export revenues fell steeply in 2007-08, even before there were visible signs of a slowdown in Indian housing and industry.
According to data provided by CAPEXIL, the value of granite export from India was Rs 2,738 crore in 2008-09, compared with Rs 4,086 crore in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the export value stood at Rs 3,367 crore. In terms of volume, the country exported 30 lakh tonnes of granite in 2008-09, compared with 31 lakh tonnes in 2006-07. In 2007-08, it was 34.12 lakh tonnes. Unlike the trend with respect to values, volumes actually rose in 2007-08, but fell below 2006-07 levels in 2008-09.
What perhaps explains the increase in volumes in 2007-08 is that polished granite, which commands a better price, was substituted by semi-finished blocks. Yet, prices in the latter category remained unattractive, reflecting the severity of the recession. Volumes increased by 10.2 per cent in 2007-08 over the previous year, while revenue earned from exports decreased by 17.6 per cent this year. The decline in export earnings and volumes was more pronounced in 2008-09. Export fell 18.7 per cent in value terms, while volumes were down 12.1 per cent. Exports revenue largely remained flat at Rs 1478.95 crore in 2009, compared with RS 1479.44 crore in 2008. In 2007, it was Rs 1703.37 crore. Granite accounts for 10 per cent of India’s minerals’ output. Over the last three decades the Indian granite industry has modernized to global standards. Sculptures and monuments made in India are being exported all over the world.