MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Orissa faces rare earths mining threat

Published by MAC on 2014-09-05
Source: Planet Ark (2014-08-29)

Just a week before India's newly-elected rightwing government finally managed to secure uranium supplies from Australia, it commissioned a new rare earths plant in Orissa.

This will be the second major facility of its kind since 1950, when Indian Rare Earths laid down plans to dig up monazite-rich beaches in Kerala. 

Since 1962 the site has been wholly-owned by the government and is closely guarded, because its output is  considered of strategic military importance.

Fisher folk and other villagers, dependent for their liveloods on the pristine coast line of Kerala, have been campaigning for closure of this mine for several decades.

Not only is the mining environmentally destructive, but it also produce radiation, which local people, backed by experts, claim has damaged many lives.

Now inhabitants of the north eastern state of Orissa are facing a similar threat.

For information on recent battles against a rare earths plant proposed for Malaysia, see: Malaysian Court declines appeal against Lynas

India to chip in with five percent of global rare earth output

Krishna N Das

PlanetEarth

29 August 2014

India is commissioning a plant to produce up to 5,000 tonnes of rare earths a year, a state company official told Reuters, which could help it contribute about 5 percent to the global supply of the metals used in cameras, cars, iPhones and wind turbines.

India's emergence as a supplier, albeit a small one, would be good news for countries like Japan, which up to now have had to rely mostly on China for rare earths production.

The plant in the state of Odisha would produce rare earth oxides by processing monazite from beach sand, said S. Surya Kumar, head of the Rare Earths Division for state-owned Indian Rare Earths, part of the Department of Atomic Energy.

Up to half of the output would be processed into products like lanthanum and cerium, which are used in camera lenses and glass polishing agents, Kumar said.

Kumar did not give a timeline for when rare earth oxides will start flowing from the Odisha plant.

Indian Rare Earths and Toyotsu Rare Earths India, a unit of Japan's Toyota Tsusho, already have an agreement to equally share the 5,000 tonnes of rare earth expected to come out of the plant, Kumar said.

Indian Rare Earths is expected to sign a further agreement on joint production of mixed rare earths with Toyota Tsusho when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart meet in Tokyo next week, the Nikkei business daily reported earlier on Thursday.

China, which produces more than 90 percent of the world's rare earth metals, this month lost an appeal at the World Trade Organization in a case brought by the United States, the European Union and Japan to challenge China's restrictions on exports of rare earths.

(Editing by Tom Hogue)

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