There are 17 chemical elements that comprise of rare earth minerals. These rare earth minerals are extracted from beaches, river beds, etc. Rare earth minerals which are found in India are ilmenite, sillimanite, garnet, zircon, monazite and rutile. The largest manufacturer and exporter of ilmenite and granet in India is V. V. Mineral. These rare earth minerals are used widely across different industrial sector like computer and IT, clean energy systems, healthcare, defence production, advanced transportation services and many others.
According to industry representatives, the Indian rare earth minerals industry worth Rs 90,000crore in annual turnover, lies wasted and underused. Globally speaking, India has approximately 35% of total beach sand mineral deposits. Rare earth minerals importance lies in their unique electronic, optical and magnetic characteristics. These characteristics cannot be matched by any other metal or synthetic substitute. Experts of Beach Minerals Producers Association estimated that the industry can net a capital employment of about Rs 121,000crore, including Rs 50,000crore worth of foreign exchange.
Chief Advisor for V. V. Mineral, C Swamydas, explains that how they have presented proposals where they are willing to take on all the cost of setting up the plant, and are even ready pay to let the atomic energy department put its own people process monazite. “We shall give the thorium (produced) to the government for free. They can store it for future use.”
The constituents of monazite are thorium and uranium, although they are in very small quantities, these are radioactive elements making monazite a restricted ‘atomic’ mineral.