Zinc and its history within India
Zinc is proven to be a mineral of overriding importance when we consider its role in the manufacturing process which ranges from paints and rubber to automobiles and military equipment. Zinc is paramount to the economic growth of any nation and India can be said to be very blessed when it comes to that since it is one of the major zinc producers in the world. Mining is a historic and traditional practice in the region, dating as far back as the first millennium BC and Indus Valley Civilization. As the world moved further on the timeline, industrialization resulted in a hike in the demand for and production of various minerals and the mining industry experienced a corresponding modernization to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. A journey which began from the East India Company giving mining permit for coal to an English company in 1774, India became the first country to have mastered the extraction of zinc from its ores. To this date, the country is a combination of various underground and opencast mines, operating on small and large scales, some of which are mechanized while some still use the age old methods of manual mining.
The Indian Zinc Industry Output
Although the Indian zinc industry saw an increase in production from 265,000 tons in 2004 to 458,000 tons in 2007, its mining production has faced deterioration in the recent years with an output of 650,000 million tons in 2016 in contrast to the 821,000 million tons produced in 2015.
The mining industry in India currently operates entirely under the private sector. The industry leaders are two corporations; Hindustan Zinc and Binani Zinc, whereby the former owns and operates seven mines and four smelters and is the most economical lead and zinc producer in the world owing to the low labor costs that prevail in the country. After a controlling interest in the mining giant was further increased in 2003 by Sterlite metals and mining group, Hindustan Zinc now owes a whopping 64% of its shareholding to the Sterlite Corporation. Sterlite has vast expansion plans for the mining giant which will help the company evolve from its traditional open cast mining processes.
The main zinc mines
A majority of the country’s zinc and lead reserves (more than 99%) are located in Zawar area in the Udaipur District of Rajasthan which is home to all major zinc mines in the country namely Rampura Agucha, Rajpura Dariba and Zawar. Rajasthan alone produced about 99% of the total zinc production of the country in 2002-03 whereas it has estimated to have an ore production capacity of 6.15 million tons per year. The Rampura Agucha mine is the world’s largest mining operation of zinc controlled by Hindustan Zinc and had a 2017 fiscal year production of 619,981 tons of zinc concentrate. The mine, which is an opencast/underground mining operation, has proven and probable reserves of 49.7 million tons.
What lies in future!
With an increase in global demand because of America’s extravagant plans for infrastructure and its emphasis on military defense and a production scale that does not seem to be meeting the ever growing thirst for the mineral ore, the competition for zinc is getting tougher every year. The supply of zinc is scarce and its stockpiles are diminishing at a rapid rate. Moreover, the closure of depleted mineral resources in countries such as Australia, Canada and Peru has created further pressure on suppliers to meet demand.
In such a stringent situation of the global market for zinc, statistics show that the Indian zinc industry has the necessary resources to survive this gloom and doom. With an anticipated capacity of 979,000 million tons of zinc in India, the country’s zinc market is expected to grow 7% by the year 2020. The country has explored only 7-9% of its mineral resources whereas its already discovered reserves of minerals like copper, zinc, gold, diamond and uranium etc. are quite significant. The prospects for the Indian mining industry are also quite bright if we consider the fact that the 10th International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting was hosted by the country in 2012. The host countries are chosen based on the scale of mining activities in the respective countries.
Additionally, India has the advantage of having a strategic geographical location which can prove to be extremely beneficial when it comes to exporting mineral ores worldwide. Although a country notorious for corruption in its legal, regulatory and political system, India has taken steps to ensure that illegal mining activities and false undervaluation of mineral ores for tax avoidance can be prevented. In this regard, the country has introduced a strict policy against illegal mining and corruption which has already proven itself to be effective against such activities. This will not only help improve the global ranking of India in the mining industry worldwide but also attract investments from foreign investors.