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Minerals and Mining

 A Historical Perspective

Indian Mining was also at its peak in the early ages. "Metallurgists" had perfected the complex process of extracting Zinc from its ores by the Downward Distillation method that required exceptional care in the type of furnance, retorts and a reducing atmosphere as well as temperature management, as evidenced by the archaeological finds at Zawar in Rajasthan as early as the 4th century BC. It may be noted that it was only in the 18th century AD that the same process was re-adopted in Britain, and patented too! In the Classical Age of India, the Metallurgy of Copper also assumed macro-dimensions. In the field of Copper Metallurgy too, the huge 5th century Copper statue of the Buddha, over two metres in height and One tonne in weight, (now in safe custody at the Birmingham Museum) is a remarkable product of macro-technology. The Mineral Wealth of India was indeed a source of special attraction for the British who conducted several Geological Surveys in early 1800s and discovered Manganese & Iron Ore deposits.


In course of time, the Deccan, Central and North India, as well as the Himalayas, were explored for their Mineral wealth and geological formations alike. The Geological Survey of India was established in 1851. Towards the end of the nineteenth century there were two Indian officers in the Geological Survey of India, P.N. Bose and P.N. Dutta. The former mapped the Vindhyas and the igneous rocks of Raipur and Balaghat areas, while Dutta discovered the vast deposits of Manganese ore in the Bhandara and the Chhindwara riverine area. Bose was also instrumental in discovering the extensive and rich deposits of Iron ore in Mayurbhanj. Later, on his advice, the Pioneering Industrialist Jamshed Tata and his son Dorab Tata took active steps for the establishment of an Iron and Steel factory in the first Indian Industrial Enterprise -- in Jamshedpur - where TISCO is still located today. India is rich in Minerals like Dolomite, Mica, Silica, Basalt, Feldspar, Quartz, Vermiculite to name a few, as well as Natural Stones like Granite and Marble.

India is one of the leading producer of Minerals. Of the 89 minerals produced in India, 4 are fuel minerals, 11 metallic, 52 non-metallic and 22 minor minerals. The share of the mineral sector in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country is around 3.5 per cent while accounting for 10 per cent share in the index of industrial production.

Though 80 % of the mines are in the private sector, yet 91% of the production in terms of size comes from the government owned mining ventures. Mining employs over 8,00,000 persons.


India is the largest producer of mica blocks and mica splitting; ranks third in the production of barites and chromites; 4th in iron ore, 6th in bauxite and manganese ore, 10th in aluminum and 11th in crude steel. Iron- ore, copper-ore, chromites, zinc concentrates, gold, manganese ore, bauxite, lead concentrates and silver account for the entire metallic production. Limestone, magnesite, dolomite, barites, kaolin, gypsum,apatite and phosphorite, stealite and fluorite account for 92 per cent of non-metallic minerals.

India's principal Metallic Minerals and their estimated reserves are:

The total recoverable reserves of Iron Ore in the country are about 9,602 million tones of haematite and 3,408 million tones of magnetite. Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Orissa, Goa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu are the principal producers of Iron Ore in the country.

Total recoverable deposits of Lead and Zinc ores are around 199 million tonnes, including 2,390 thousand tones of Lead metal and 9,866 thousand tones of Zinc metal. Lead- Zinc resources are located in Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu and Sikkim.

Copper reserves are estimated to around 416.8 million tones equivalent to 4.37 million tones of metal content. Major and important copper deposits are located in Singhbhum district (Bihar), Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh) and Jhunjunu and Alwar, (Rajasthan).

The total recoverable reserves of Bauxite in the country are placed at 2,525 million tones. Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar are the principal states where bauxites deposits are located.

Out of the 167 million tonnes of recoverable Manganese ore, 40 millions are proven, 49 million tones probable 78 million tonnes of possible category. Main reserves are in Karnataka followed by Orissa , Madhya Pradesh, Maharshtra and Goa.

There are three important Gold fields in the country, namely, Kolar Gold Field, Kolar district, Hutti Gold Field in Raichur district (both in Karnataka) and Ramagiri Gold Field in Anantapur district (Andhra Pradesh). Total Gold metal ore reserves are estimated at 177.9 lakh tonnes, with 68 tonnes of metal.

The coal reserves of India upto the depth of 1200 m. have been estimated by the Geological Survey of India as 2,11,593.61 million tones as on 1.1 2000. AndhraPradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are the main producers of coal in India.

Details of Non-Metallic Mineral reserves are:

India is the world's leading producer of Mica and accounts for about 60 per cent of global Mica trade. Important mica bearing pegmatite are found in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajashthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Karnataka, Rajasthan & Bihar are the principal producers of Asbestos. Together, it is estimated that the recoverable reserves of asbestos in the country is around 93 million tonnes.

India has around 4,387 million tonnes reserves of Dolomite & about 92% of this comes from seven states- Madhya Pradesh, Orissa,West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

The production of Gypsum is confined to Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir,Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Estimated Gypsum reserves are pegged at 238 million tonnes.

Limestone reserves are placed at 76,446 million tonnes. Major states producing same are Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Bihar.