India will soon foray into rare earths mining as it targets to open by December its 10,000 tonnes capacity monazite processing plant in the eastern state of Odisha.
Monazite is a phosphate mineral containing the rare earth metals cerium, lanthanum, and thorium.
Located in the coastal stretch in Bramhagiri in Odisha's Puri district, the area is actually the second in India where rare earths were found. The other discovered deposits were in the coastal areas of the Ganjam district.
Indian Rare Earths was awarded the authority to mine the rare earths in Odisha. It is reportedly planning to mine around 2,500 hectares. An earlier survey by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research, Hyderabad, a unit under the Department of Atomic Energy of India, revealed huge deposits of rare earths minerals in the coastal stretch of Puri.
"The Odisha plant could be commissioned by December. We will carry out dry runs, and hopefully, start production early next year,'' Mineweb quoted R N Patra, chairman of Indian Rare Earths Limited, as saying.
Indian Rare Earths has been mining and separating heavy minerals such as zircon, rutile, ilmenite, silimanite, garnet and monazite from beach sands. Used in the production of ceramics, TV tubes, white pigment and polishing glass, these minerals are domestically high in demand as well as for exports, Mr Patra said.
Worth $25 million, the monazite processing plant will handle around 2,250 tonnes of rare earths. It will then be separated at Indian Rare Earth's Aluva facility in Kerala for domestic consumption, while the rest will be exported, Mr Patra said. No exact figures were mentioned how much rare earths will be exported.
India has another monazite processing plant, a 12,000-tonne capacity facility located in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh's second largest city and a major sea port. It is being built in coordination with Toyota. The project is seen to produce high purity rare earth oxides, such as neodymium, a vital component in permanent magnets.