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Insights 2015

Indira Singh: Aligning Canada's mining expertise with India's                                         demand

India's Parliament recently passed the long waited Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Amendment Bill. Mr. Narendra Singh Tomar, the union mines minister stated “This Ordinance is a revolutionary step in the revival of the mining sector in the country, hitherto stagnated due to various reasons. 

"While simplification and transferability will attract private investment, classification of minerals will lead to their scientific exploration and delays will be reduced by according more power to the states." 

The union mines minister also stressed the need for a mineral database in India. "Detailed exploration is the first step in mining. To set realistic goals and make workable plans, it is imperative to know the true measure of our resource base”.  The implementation framework is being developed.  It will take some time for the Bill to come into force, but the government has set the tone for the direction it wishes to see take hold.

The revival of India’s mining sector requires access to capital, mining expertise, and state of the art technologies.  At present, India lacks the necessary expertise on a number of fronts: an unprecedented opportunity for Canadian suppliers of mining equipment, technology and services.  These companies could either invest in and or be a provider of technology, equipment and goods or expertise to India.  Canadian companies are world leaders in a number of areas and Canadian mining assets abroad totalled exceeded C$150 billion in 2012, in 109 countries.  Seventy percent of global mining equity was raised on the TMX in 2012.

India needs what Canada has - a wealth of world-class expertise in mining-related services and technologies including: the management and financing mining projects; achieving zero waste mining; maximizing the gains from mined minerals; improving worker health and safety; and ensuring restoration of the ecological balance.  Three key areas are: increased exploration activities; access to the equipment, services and technology; and the need for potash solution mining.  Areas where the Canadian industry can promote its brand and make its mark are consistent with the newly launched Canadian Extractive Sector Trade Strategy.

Exploration:   The total mineral potential in India covers 5.75 lakh sq. km., of which an area of only 75,000 sq. km. has been explored in detail so far.   Geological Potential for World class mineral discoveries in India is similar to Australia, Brazil, Canada and South Africa. It is latent. The last discovery of world class lead zinc silver deposit was made at Rampura Agucha in Rajasthan in 1982.  

A number of world class deposits have been discovered before 1982. Malanjkhand porphyry Cu-Mo-Au Precambrian Porphyry deposits at Malanjkhand, Madhya Pradesh, India was made in 1971. Since, Ancients had mined in many parts of India up to 360 m depth. The Canadians have explored and developed mines to 2000 m depth and have technology which will be suitable for India.

“(Canada is) home to the largest number of publicly listed exploration companies in the world, and over one-half of the properties of those companies are outside of Canada...With 800 active Canadian companies exploring in over 100 countries, Canada is a global mining superpower” said Rod Thomas, President of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada  (PDAC) .

Exploration technologies locate large, high grade reserves with minimal ground disturbance and disruption to the environment.  These include GPS surveying, airĀ¬ borne technologies, and down-hole seismic imaging technologies that allow exploration companies to locate new deposits not otherwise discoverable with traditional methods.  

Equipment, Services and Technology:  Canadian suppliers are looking to export their products, technologies and services and India offers unmatched opportunities throughout the mining lifecycle.  India needs new mining techniques and technologies across the full spectrum of exploration, production and environmental issues including: mine safety; underground mining; heavy capacity equipment; waste minimization and recycling; operational improvement technologies; new mining techniques; increased usage of robotics; exploration technologies to help achieve zero waste mining; maximizing the gains from mined minerals; improving worker health and safety; Airborne Geophysical Surveys, and heavy duty equipment and assay laboratories ensuring the restoration of the ecological balance; Joint Ventures in the area of geological studies and development of mineral deposits; and fuel exploration activities.

Potash Solution Mining: While India’s general need for mining equipment, technology and services is well known, a specific need where India’s public and private sector companies lack expertise is potash solution mining. The private sector players have confined themselves to minerals such as gold, diamond, base metals and iron ores. 

The exploration and development of minerals such as potash has been completely neglected because of a lack of experience. According to Dr. Desh Sikka, mining veteran, potash occurs in Rajasthan, India can be mined by solution mining.   

It is imperative that fertilizer is made available to Indian farmers at an affordable price to India’s sustain economic agricultural growth and to promote balanced nutrient application.   But the rising cost of an annual subsidy of US$11.4 billion has drawn criticism and is unsustainable in the long run - in the past decade fertiliser subsidies have quadrupled. 

Since India is projected to need approximately five million tonnes of potash a year, it needs to explore innovative approaches to securing a continued long-term supply.   Without domestic production sources, India remains a key importer of potash.  It is estimated that Indian potash imports will reach a four-year high of about five-million tonnes this year. 

The Government of India is encouraging Indian Companies to establish Joint Ventures abroad and to enter into long-term agreements for the supply of fertilizers and fertilizer inputs to India. Canada is not only a major producer of potash but has untapped expertise in potash solution mining.  

This provides a unique opportunity for joint ventures between Canadian and Indian companies and is in India’s national interest.  Furthermore, it provides global Indian companies the opportunity to develop expertise and gain experience in mining potash, which are presently lacking. 

To conclude-India needs what Canada has. Canadian suppliers are seeking new export markets for their products and technologies and India offers unmatched opportunities throughout the mining lifecycle: everything from exploration to rehabilitation to solution mining potash. This could well be a win-win situation: Canada gains access to one of the world’s largest markets while India gains access to advanced technology without having to invest in significant R&D over several decades. 

Author is Chair, Canada Energy and Mining Committee and Principal, Mining Consultancy International Inc.

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