- November 15, 2021
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Context: Nearly 37,024 tons of Monazite can be extracted from beach sand stored by private miners in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and KanyaKumari districts of Tamilnadu claims amicus curiae.
Since 2000, illegal mining and transportation of Garnet, Ilmenite, Rutile, Zirem, Sillemanate and Leucoxene were happening despite the State government’s complete ban in these three districts.
In 2016, the Madras HC ordered strict enforcement of ban. However, the prohibited mineral Monazite are clandestinely sold by mixing it with processed minerals.
Monazite is one of the beach sand minerals that contains rare earths like, lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium etc. It also contains thorium which is a “prescribed substance”, the list of which was revised in 2006 under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.
While different rare earths are used for manufacturing of various parts of the computer, mobile phones, magnet for electric motors fitted in automobiles and gas mantle etc, thorium is important for the country’s third stage nuclear power programme and has the potential to emerge as next generation fuel for nuclear power plants. It is being stockpiled for future use, said chairman-cum managing director, IREL RN Patra.
- It is a rare phosphate mineral usually occurs in small isolated grains in Igneous and Metamorphic rocks such as granite, pegmatite, schist, and gneiss.
- It is translucent and one of the most resistant minerals to weathering.
- Stream sediments, alluvial terraces, beach sediments, beach terraces, and shallow water sediments have all been dredged for heavy minerals.
- But all monazite mining is focused on placer deposits because they are easier to mine, and the monazite is often present in higher concentrations than in hard rock deposits.
- Other heavy minerals that accumulate with monazite include Gold, Platinum, Magnetite, Ilmenite, Rutile, Zircon and a variety of gemstones.
- Today, most of the world’s monazite is produced in the offshore waters of India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brazil. Southern India and Sri Lanka have the most extensive offshore monazite resources known.
- It is a radioactive atomic mineral used for production of Thorium (as high as 500 ppm) and has the potential to be used as fuel in the nuclear power system.
- Guangdong, China
- Mount Weld, Australia
- Kangankunde, Malawi
- Zandkopsdrift, SA
- Steenkampskaal, SA
Recent studies revealed that Thorium-232 could be an efficient and safe fuel alternative to uranium to generate nuclear power for commercial purposes for two major reasons:
- Abundance of thorium in nature is three or four times higher than uranium compared to uranium fuels,
- Thorium fuels produce much less plutonium and minor actinides therefore, induced radiotoxicities are lower by more than two orders of magnitude