Thorium” and the caption “Nuclear Mine Field

1. This has reference to an article authored and posted by one Shri Srinivasan Kalyanaraman on the blog http://www.thecitizen.in/News Detail.aspx? under the labels: “Thorium” and the caption “Nuclear Mine Field”: Jaya Government breaks rules to allow private mining of Atomic Minerals. The author has invited comment on the contents of the article.

2. In deference to his wishes I would like to offer my detailed comments.
3. Before delving at length into the details, I wish to introduce myself as Dr.T.Anitha, a pro-active Environmental Bio-technologist possessing post-graduate degree and doctorate in Environmental Bio-technology and has good many years of experience in this field. Besides, having been associated with this fascinating field I am very well acquainted and conversant with the statutory provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulations) Act 1957, the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988, Atomic Energy Act and Rules 1962 also. Further more, I have a good collection of various circulars and executive instructions issued by the Ministry of Mines, Government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. Therefore, with the above mentioned background knowledge that I have possessed in this field, when I went through the contents of the article I was utterly disappointed and distraught over many parts of the contents of the said article which are full of factual errors and misinformation. Many of the interpretations of the author expressed in his article only the expose his ignorance or his shallow depth of knowledge in respect of chemical composition of ‘Monazite’, statutory provisions of Mines and Minerals Act and Rules and the circulars of the concerned Departments of Government of India issued from time to time governing the grant of mining leases and the regulatory measures in respect of “beach sand minerals”.

4. With reference to the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulations) Act 1957, the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 and the circulars of Ministry of Mines, Atomic Energy Department of Government of India issued at different appropriate point of time keeping in view the changing need and demand of the situation, the article , per-se lacks material facts. In this context it may not be out of place to mention that I have been watching with curiosity in the past several months that some incorrect and distorted information are doing around in the social media, some news papers, weeklies, etc., about “beach sands” regarding their occurrence, mining and the like. At all those times I did not venture to intervene to reply to those distorted facts for obvious reasons that professional rivalry in this field plays a dominant role in decimating totally this vital ‘mining sector’ itself. Now I have a valid reason to step to offer my comment since this article has addressed as “NaMo, stop the Monazite loot from Tamil Nadu and AP Scrap DAE 18, June, 2006 illegal notification allowing OGL for Atomic Minerals”. Before the authorities in the “power that be” upfront get carried away by the contents of the article which I hope they will not do so in haste I consider it my sacred duty to put the whole gamut of this matter in proper perspective and guide the course of action in proper direction to the best of my conscience and ability.
5. I can say, for certain, that some misguided elements are out in public to disseminate and propagate misguided and false information about this vital mining sector unmindful of what kind of damage that it is likely to cause if the mineral is not put into proper and timely use. Further, it is bound to cause collateral damage and double wham my both to the economy of the country as well as mining sector itself which provides employment opportunities in good numbers to several thousands of skilled, semi skilled and other category of workers both in the mines and the mineral processing units. Therefore, it is the duty of all fair minded persons to stem the spread of this ‘virus and menace’ which will spell disaster.
6. To substantiate my above comment that the article contains misinformation and distorted facts it is my duty to point out that the title itself is erroneous for the reason that the State Government, irrespective of who is at the helm of affairs, has no unilateral statutory powers independent of the parent Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 which are all enacted only by the Parliament and have come into force with the assent of His Excellency, the President of India in respect of all types of “Major minerals” listed in the said Act. However, the State Governments are empowered under section 15 of the said Act to frame and enact their own independent rules only in respect of ‘minor minerals’ such as river sand, gravel blue metal, granites, etc. etc. Adverting to nuclear mine field in particular as reported in the said article, it is informed that State Government of Tamil Nadu under any Chief Minister cannot break rules and allow private mining of Atomic Minerals on their own without following the Act and Rules and the guidelines issued by the Dept. of Atomic Energy and AERB. This is applicable to all State Governments functioning under the Union of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, whatever mining leases that are being granted they are granted only with the prior approval and concurrence of the concerned Departments and the Ministry of Government of India.
7. Regarding mining of ‘Monazite’ in particular I expatiate as follows upon the correct position with regard to Government of India policy on mining of beach minerals containing ‘prescribed substances and monazite’, the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India has announced its Policy Resolution on exploitation of Beach sand minerals vide its circular No.8/1(i)/97-PSU dated 06.10.1998 and published the same in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary dated 16.10.1998, Part I , Section 1 contents of which are extracted below:
“India has large reserves of beach sand minerals in the coastal stretches around the country. Ilmenite is the largest constituent of the Indian deposits, others being Rutile, Leucoxene, zircon, sillimanite, garnet and monazite. The minerals other than garnet and sillimanite, have been classified as ‘prescribed substances’ under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962”.
“Under the Industrial policy statement of 1991, the mining and production of minerals classified as ‘prescribed substances’ is reserved for the public sector”.
“Considering the growing demand for these minerals and/or their value added products in the domestic as well as international markets and the potential available in the country, setting up of new plants for exploitation of these deposits in fresh locations would be in the interest of the country. Production of various value-added products of these minerals, is, however, highly capital intensive and it may not be possible for only the PSUS (both Central and Stated owned) operating in this filed to set up the new plants on their own. It is, therefore, necessary to allow the private sector to set up such plants within the frame work of some broad guidelines”.
“In view of the background explained above, Government of India has recently approved a policy to encourage further exploitation of these mineral deposits through a judicious mix of public and private participations (including foreign investments)”.
“The other objectives of the policy are maximization of value addition to the raw minerals within the country, up-gradation of the existing process technologies to international standards, attracting funds and new technology necessary for this purpose through participation of the private sector (domestic and foreign) appropriate disposal of the new production facilities with an eye on regional balance and regulating the rate of exploitation reserves last for about hundred years without, of course, adversely affecting the investors’ techno-economic considerations.”
8. In consonance with the above declared revised policy of the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India, it is informed that exploitation of “prescribed substances” including that of ‘Monazite’ has been thrown open to private participation and production and disposal of Monazite, in particular, has been permitted under private sector also since 1998 in accordance with the instructions/directives of AERB.
9. Therefore, it is needless to explain that there is no prohibition or ban on production and disposal of Monazite also by private entities. The only requirement is obtaining proper license from the competent authority. This policy decision has been taken by the concerned Department of Atomic Energy consciously keeping all aspects of “Monazite’ in mind.
10. In respect of Monazite, as per the advice of DAE, Govt., of India implemented Rule 66A a special provisions relating to atomic minerals envisioned in the Rule 66A of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. Hence the Beach Mineral mining lessee has to follow Rule 66A only in respect of Atomic Minerals including Monazite. Since monazite also associated with beach minerals, license from AERB is required only for production and disposal of monazite since the mineral monazite already occurs in association with other minerals in the beach sand and the agglomerated beach sand has been already mined with the valid licence for other substances contained in the beach sand.
11. Further, the requirement is that the BSM facilities have to get license from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
12. It is mandatory that all the existing beach sand minerals facilities carrying out mineral processing of beach sand minerals (physical separation and/or chemical processing) are required to obtain licence under rule 3 of the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules of 2004 from the AERB.
13. Further more, Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India has, as early as 2000 itself, issued a letter D.O.No.7/3(ii)/2000-PSU/537, dated 08.05.2000 of the Officer on special Duty, Department of Atomic Energy, Mumbai addressed to the Director, Department of Geology and Mining, Guindy, Chennai-600 032 wherein it has been mentioned, inter alia, that
“prior to issue of the Resolution of 06.10.1998 a policy of exploitation of beach sand minerals, only public sector undertakings of the Government of India/State Governments were authorized to produce and sell minerals like ilmenite, Rutile, zircon, etc., which have been declared as prescribed substances under the Atomic Energy Act. It was, in this context, that ‘No Objection Certificates’ were issued from this Department to garnet producers. “After issue of the Notification dated 06.10.1998, it is permissible for Indian owned companies also to produce and sell minerals like ilmenite, zircon, etc., with the introduction of the new policy in October, 1998, some companies who have earlier obtained ‘No Objection Certificates’ for production and sale of garnet applied to this Department seeking licence for production and sale of ilmenite also accordingly, licences were issued to the companies. Therefore, now they need not have to handover the ‘tailings’ to IREL. This Department has no objection for those companies utilizing the accumulated tailings for production of Ilmenite, etc., and sell thereof, subject to satisfying the quantities indicated in the licences by them”.
14. In the same year the Ministry of Mines, Government of India has circulated another letter to the Director of Geology and Mining, Guindy, Chennai-600 032 vide No.7(30)/2000-11/IV, dated 16.08.2000 with regard to production of ‘atomic minerals” wherein it has been clarified among other things as follows:
…………. In the view of Department of Atomic Energy, there is no need for separate mining lease for beach minerals occurring naturally with garnet. It may be noted that Rule 66-A of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 which deals with mining of Atomic minerals by holder of mining lease for major minerals Rule 66A read with Rule 27(1)(b) of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 clearly prescribes that in the case of atomic minerals, the inclusion of atomic minerals in the mining lease is not required…………” This clarification of the Ministry of Mines, Govt. of India answers and thwarts all the evil designs of the author and the associates.
15. Further, as regards special provisions relating to Atomic Minerals such as Monazite as enshrined in sub rules (i)&(ii) of Rule 66-A(1) of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 there is no bar on the part of a holder of mining lessee for major minerals to win and dispose of atomic minerals found associated with the other minerals for which mining lease has already been obtained subject to the conditions stipulated therein.
16. Shri.Srinivasan Kalyanaraman is obviously not aware of the procedure enunciated in the Rule 22(1) of the Mineral Concessions Rules, 1960 wherein seekers of a mining lease for all types of major minerals in any land shall make an application only to the State Government through the District Collector concerned as per sub rule (4) of the said rule 22 of the Mineral Concessions Rules, 1960, the State Government alone shall take a statutory decision to grant or refuse to grant a mining lease. This is the unambiguously clear statutory power conferred upon the State Governments by the Central Government through the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. However, in respect of certain category of minerals listed in the First Schedule, prior approval of the Central Government is required. Even then, the mining lease granting power is vested only with the State Governments. It is advisable that Shri. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman is requested to visit the relevant provisions of the Acts and rules governing granting of mining leases and other regulatory measures keep himself abreast of the statutory provisions in force.
17. From the above illustration of facts, it may be discerned that all mis-information and distorted facts presented in the pretext of an article are thus put at rest and nought.
18. Shri. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman is requested to get to know that the nomenclature of ‘prescribed substances’ has been deleted by the Department of Atomic Energy vide Notification dated 20-01-2006 and the nomenclature of the prescribed substances ceases to exist since then and consequently there are no prescribed substances as such now.
19. Regarding fixation of royalty for “Monazite”, it is informed that only Ministry of Mines, Government of India can fix royalty once in three years as per sub section(3) of section 9 of Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 . The State Governments have no statutory powers to fix royalty arbitrarily for any major minerals on their own. In fact, only the Ministry of Mines, Government of India has fixed Rs.125 per Tonne as royalty for ‘Monazite’ and all the State Governments have to follow that rate of royalty only scrupulously. Thiru.S.Kalyanaraman is therefore invited to go through Sl.No.30 of the Schedule II of MMDR Act, 1957 .
20. Shri. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman has not furnished correct information regarding composition of Monazite. He has equated ‘Monazite’ with an ore of “Uranium”. Shri.Srinivasan kaylanaraman is requested to verify from the text book on ‘Mineralogy’ by “Dana” which is acclaimed as the best reference text book on ‘Mineralogy’ prescribed in the colleges offering geology course.
21. In the said book it has been mentioned that ‘Monazite’ is the chief source of ‘Thorium Oxide’ which is used in the manufacture of “incandescent gas light mantles” whereas “Uranium” belongs to an entirely different ‘Uranite Group’ which is a phosphate of cerium metals with essentially contain Ce, La, Di, Po4 and thus each one belongs to different group of ores. It is considered pertinent to inform that the Govt. of Tamil Nadu vie its G.O.Ms.No.288 dated 18-01-1961 Dept. of Industries, Labour and Co-operation has sanctioned the grant to M/s.Palcorporation (Pvt) Ltd , No.71, Amman Sannadhi street, Madurai to mine ‘Uranium’ among other minerals , for a period of 20 years over an extent of 70.78 acres in S.Nos.116, 121, 122, 123/1 and 2, 124, 125, 126/1, 127/2, 128/1, 129/1 and 132 in Panamoopanpatti village, Thirumangalam Taluk, Madurai district . The said company had been subsequently permitted to sell ‘Uranium’ to foreign countries by the Dept. of atomic Energy vide their letter No.7(1)(29)/99-PSU/512 dated 22.5.2001 on a specific request and application made by the said company to the Dept. It may be noted here that ‘Uranium’ is more potential nuclear and radio-active mineral than ‘Thorium’ content ‘Monazite’ and that high potency radio-active nuclear mineral itself had been permitted to be sold to a private company by the Department of Atomic Energy.
22. It is pertinent to point out here that even M/s.Indian Rare Earths Limited exports monazite only to private parties in other countries.
23. This factual information, I am sure will dispel the scare and misapprehensions created regarding mining and disposal of ‘Monazite’ by private lessees in Tamil Nadu.
24. In the said article Shri Srinivasan Kalyanaraman has reported that the Department of Geology and Mining has granted 16 licences in 2012-2013 allowing private companies to mine atomic mineral ‘Monazite’. Since he has not furnished the list of those 16 licences, I am unable to offer specific comments on each of them. However, I can offer a generalised comment by which I may state that if all 16 licences are already in possession of individual mining leases for other types of major minerals, there is no statutory bar to cause inclusion of ‘Monazite’ also in their existing mining leases as per rule 66-A of the Mineral Concessions Rule, 1960 and also in accordance with the several clarifications and executive instructions given by the Department of Atomic Energy as well as the Ministry of Mines, Government of India in this regard. No separate approval is necessary but only a licence from the AERB for disposal of monazite is required as per AERB guidelines and instructions. In such already existing mining leases, inclusion of any additional mineral including ‘Monazite’ can be absolutely statutorily allowed by the competent authority of the State Governments and there is no illegality in this regard. But actual disposal of Monazite shall be done only in accordance with the direction of AERB. Therefore, inclusion of monazite in the existing mining lease may be ordered by the competent authority of the State Govt. with the imposition of a special condition to obtain a license from AERB before disposal of monazite.
25. As for other contents of this article such as submission of an affidavit by the Department of Atomic Energy in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in 2013 related to a case by some private company, I would like to state that I have no comments to offer as I am not concerned with those matters and the matter is sub-judice.
General observation and conclusion
a) Once again I would like to state the whole article put up on the blog by Shri.Srinivasa Kalyanaraman contains factual errors and misleading information.
b) It is quite unfortunate that, of late . some people in Tamilnadu have been painting a bad picture about beach sand mining in toto and the functions of the State Govt. in this regard in Tamil Nadu alone . I fail to understand as to why these people have been keeping silence when similar beach sand mining has been permitted in the coastal areas of the states of Orissa, Kerala and Maharashtra, etc., by the respective state governments to private parties.
c) I am sanguine that this reply of mine may at least now throw some light and bring out revelations on what is envisioned in the statutory provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957 and the existing the Policy of beach sand mining with particular reference to the prescribed substances and monazite thereby setting right the perceptions set in motion in the public by some people.
d) The beach sand minerals ‘as its name itself implies are unique in their occurrence confining to a few coastal zones of the States of Kerala, Orissa, AP, Maharashtra and Gujarat some extent. If these replenishable deposits are not allowed to be exploited at proper time, this will remain unutilised or misused by the locals for construction and other inferior purpose or it will be drawn back to the ocean bed itself by wave action without being available for use in the mineral based industries as well export to foreign countries. Therefore, it is irrational to oppose for the sake of opposing what is better for the progress, prosperity and industrial development of this country at large.
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