India is set to auction molybdenum mines for the first time in its history. Molybdenum is used to make missile and aircraft parts and also in the nuclear power industry, but the refractory metal is primarily used as an alloying agent in steel.
Sources said the state-run Mineral Exploration Corporation (MECL) has already explored three molybdenum blocks in Tamil Nadu and handed them over to the state government with a detailed geological report.
According to MECL, Vellampatti South has 3.128 million tonnes (MT) of reserves, while the Marudipatti Central and Mannadipatti Central have 0.034 MT and 0.031 MT reserves, respectively.
“In all three blocks, molybdenum is occurring as molybdenite and hence, these blocks can be developed as primary mines for recovery of molybdenum as a sole object. General depth of exploration is in between 150 m and 325 m. However, molybdenite zone is expected to continue in deeper levels,” said a source.
The Vellampatti South block, which has good prospects for mining, is likely to be auctioned for mining lease (ML); while composite licences are likely to be issued for the other two as these two are “low” on mining prospects.
“The exploration of these three blocks has been carried out by MECL involving `5.79 crore . This has been funded by the government under promotional programme of the ministry of mines,” a source said.
MECL has spent around `2 crore for exploration, `2.23 crore for Marudipatti Central and `1.68 crore for Mannadipatti Central blocks.
India imported 5,572 tonnes of molybdenum ores and concentrate in 2013-14, down from 6,863 tonnes in the previous year. Imports were mainly from Chile, the US, Thailand and Mexico.
According to a 2013-14 Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) report, demand for molybdenum will be increasing in India and the internal demand will mostly continue to be met through imports.
As on April 2010, India’s molybdenum ore resources are estimated at about 19.29 million tonnes.
Tamil Nadu has the highest deposits at 9.97 million tonnes followed by 8 million tonnes in Madhya Pradesh and 1.32 million tonnes in Karnataka.