Iron ore miner National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) is likely to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vietnam-based Masan Resources for acquiring a minority equity stake in Nui Phao polymetallic tungsten mine. The MoU is expected to be signed in January after which a due diligence will be initiated. Masan is claimed to be world’s largest tungsten miner and producer accounting for around 30% of the total global supply of the metal. The mine, which has rich reserves of tungsten mineral, is located in Thai Nguyen province in Northern Vietnam. At present, India mostly imports tungsten for its domestic requirements due to high production cost of the metal. “We have got the clearance from the steel ministry. We will soon be signing an MoU after which a due diligence will be conducted,” N Baijendra Kumar, CMD, NMDC, said. “We may acquire about 5-10% stake in the mine,” he added. “Masan operates a mine that produces about 6,000 tonne of ammonium para tungsten per annum. However, India needs about 250 to 300 tonne per annum of ammonium para tungstate for strategic purposes and there is no mining of the metal in the country after closure of a mine in Rajasthan,” PK Satpathy, director (production), NMDC, said.
In fact, NMDC and Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) have signed an MoU for preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for assessment of potential tungsten reserves within the country and explore opportunities for acquisition/sourcing tungsten minerals elsewhere abroad through appointment of reputed consultants. Besides, NMDC and Mishra Dhatu Nigam (Midhani), specialist in developing metals and alloys, have also inked agreement to work on tungsten ore mining and processing for use in strategic defence areas. Tungsten metal is of strategic importance to the country because of its essential requirement in the manufacture of tungsten-based heavy alloy ammunition systems for armed forces. Availability of tungsten in India is very limited and not being mined as it is economically not viable. China is the largest producer of tungsten, producing more than 80% of world production. Presently, India’s requirement of this strategic mineral is being met through imports. Meanwhile, NMDC will be investing about `3,500 crore this fiscal towards capex, including for the steel plant coming up in Nagarnar, Chhattisgarh. As part of its long term plans, NMDC plans to increase its production capacity to 67 MT per annum by 2021-22 from the current level of 34 MT.