Mineral Resources India – Iron, Coal, Aluminium, Copper, Lead, Zinc

Metallic Ferrous Containing iron contents (Iron ores, Ni, Co, Mn etc.)
Non Ferrous Gold, Silver, Cu, Pb, Al, Zn etc.
Non Metallic Organic Fossil fuels Coal, Petroleum etc.
Inorganic Mica, Limestone, Graphite, Gypsom etc.

Mineral Resources India

Iron & Coal Industries

Iron Ores

  • Magnetite Best quality iron ore containing 72 % iron (Have magnetic properties)
  • Hematite 60 – 70 % iron content
  • Limonite 40 – 60 % iron content
  • Siderite ~ 40 % iron content


Iron-coal industry

  • Iron ore + coke + limestone + heat Pig iron
  • Pig iron ore processing cast-iron, wrought iron, steel and variety of alloys

Iron to Steel Formation - Processing of Iron Ore

  • Therefore, Essential inputs are:
  • iron ore, coking coal and limestone
  • water for cooling
  • energy for heating
  • Steel industry also requires dolomite, manganese etc. but in small quantities
  • Hence their presence is not the main deciding factor for the location


Deciding locations for iron-coal industry

  • Near Forest
  • Near Coal mines
  • Near Coastal Areas


Near Forest

  • Until the end of medieval period, iron production was done on small scale
  • Energy was immobile (No wires to move electricity, No trains to move coal)
  • To produce five tons of iron, you had to chop down one acre of forest to get sufficient charcoal
  • Therefore, wood supply was primary factor for deciding location
  • Hence, smelters were usually setup near forest areas
  • Even in Modern times, Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant (Karnataka) was setup near jungle to get wood-charcoal
  • Later it was switched to hydro-electricity  from Sarawati river


Near coal fields

  • During the Industrial Revolution, iron and steel industry were setup near coalmines, due to following reasons -
  • The coalfield region had a tradition of iron working based on charcoal
  • As a result coalfield areas already had the labour and technology
  • In Britain, iron ore was found embedded with coal seams same area provided both iron ore + coal
  • During that era, to process 1 tons of iron ore, you needed 8-12 tons of coal
  • Railway engines were also inefficient
  • So, weight-wise, it was cheaper to transport iron ore to coalfields rather than transporting coal to iron ore site


Near coastal areas

  • By early 20th century the coal and iron ore mines in US-Europe started getting depleted
  • So, they started importing iron ore from other countries
  • As a result the iron space and steel industry started moving toward coastal sites to reduce cost of transporting ores from port to factory via railways
  • Example Steel plants at Vishakhapatnam, Ratnagiri, Mangalore


Need for “Coking coal”

  • Iron ore has iron oxide but we’re only interested in iron
  • So, we’ve to get rid of the “oxide” part
  • Hence to remove the “oxide” part we blend it with carbon to form “Carbon dioxide”
  • Coking coal has high concentration of carbon, compared to cheap varieties of coal like Lignite
  • Therefore you’ve to mix the coking coal with iron ore

Extraction of Iron from its ore

  • For heating you can use other variety of coal / even electricity


Steel Industries India

  • Jharkhand Jamshedpur (TISCO), Bokaro
  • West Bengal Durgapur, Burnpur
  • Odisha Rourkela
  • Chhattisgarh Bhilai
  • Andhra Pradesh Vishakhapatnam
  • Karnataka Vishveshwarya
  • Tamil Nadu Salem


Aluminium-Bauxite Refining

Bauxite to Alumina

  • Aluminum is an abundant mineral in the earth crust
  • But for mining or commercial scale exploitation, you require significant concentration of bauxite ore at one particular site
  • Bauxite occurs frequently in the tropical areas where limestone rocks are exposed to weathering
  • First, Bauxite ore is crushed, washed and mixed with caustic soda to remove impurities
  • Then it is dried in large furnaces to remove moisture content You get alumina
  • During this phase, ~50% or more weight loss happens
  • Hence, this process (of converting bauxite to Alumina) is done near the raw material side
  • Because less weight less transportation cost

Bauxite to Alumina to Aluminium

Alumina to aluminum (By Electrolysis)

  • The white powder of alumina is dissolved in a bath Electric current is passed through it using carbon electrodes alumina is converted to aluminum
  • Requires massive amount of electricity
  • Hence, aluminum smelting facilities are set up near sources of cheap electricity, rather than near to raw material or near to final market


Aluminium Industry → India

  • UP Hindalco (Birla)
  • Odisha Hirakund (Birla), Jharsuguda (Vedanta)
  • Chhattisgarh Korba (Vedanta)
  • BALCO Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
  • NALCO Koratpur, Odisha
  • MALCO Mettur, TN


Copper Refining India

  • With 20th century, copper became important for electric industry
  • As the demand for copper increased, new mining-smelting technologies developed to utilize even lower quality ores
  • Location principle for copper and aluminum industries same, but smelting process is different


Concentrating ore (Copper ore → Blister copper)

  • Copper ore is soaked in water and mixed with oils
  • The copper revering matter floats on the top, and is separated out for further processing
  • After this “concentrating” stage, barely 2.5% of the original matter remains
  • Less weight less transportation cost, therefore, copper concentrating mills are set up near the raw material (mines)
  • After this stage, sulfur and oxygen impurities are separated from the concentrated copper ore & we get “blister copper”
  • Even in the state, the weight loss ratio is significant, therefore smelting is usually done near raw material

Copper Smelting

Blister to copper (Electrolysis)

  • Although Blister copper is 99% pure metal, but still unsuitable for manufacturing electronic wires, utensils etc.
  • Because it contains impurities of gold, silver, lead and zinc
  • Therefore, blister copper is refined via electrolysis method
  • Blister copper is immersed in a bath of copper sulphate, electricity is passed and impurities are removed
  • Here, the weight loss ratio is extremely small. (~1%)
  • So, there is no economic factor to setup copper refining factories near the raw material


Copper Refineries → India

  • Hindustan Copper Khetri, Jhunjnu district, Rajasthan
  • BACLO Korba, Chhattisgarh
  • Hindalco (Birla) Dahej, Bharuch district of Gujarat
  • Sterlite Industries Tutikorin, Tamil Nadu


Acid Industry

  • From the Copper refining process, by products can be used for making phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid
  • Copper smelting SO2gas Used in making Sulphuric Acid
  • Sulphuric acid + Rock Phosphate Phosphoric Acid which can further it can be used for making fertilizers
  • Rock Phosphate is usually imported, because SO2gas is difficult to transport, so, better import rock phosphate here
  • Hence, such acid industries are located in the vicinity of Copper refineries
  • Nowadays, copper refining companies have integrated plants to produce such acids within their premises


Copper Industry Challenges in India

  • Special copper alloys are still imported, because we don’t have technology to produce them locally for e.g. Beryllium copper
  • Mining & smelting technology is obsolete Causes substantial air pollution because of sulphur dioxide emission
  • Still don’t have technology for downstream copper products e.g. copper tubes for refrigeration/AC etc. majority of them still imported.
  • Still don’t have technology for complete recovery of precious metals such as Cobalt, Nickel etc from copper concentration.
  • Producing 1 ton Copper from ore takes almost 14000 kwh energy, but producing 1 ton copper from scrap/recycling takes only 1700 kwh.
  • However, scrap based copper smelter are not yet well established in India
  • Very few plants using scrap metal to recycle copper (e.g. Lonavala, Hyderabad)
  • Manpower requirement per tonne of finished copper is very high compared to developed countries due to less automation.
  • There is huge gap between demand and supply, almost 70% copper is imported.
  • There is no smelter at Malanjkhand (MP) hence the concentrate has to be transported to Khetri (Rajasthan) cost of production increases
  • Overall, Indian copper ore is average quality, hence mining/refining is a costly because copper yield is low


Lead and Zinc Industry

Lead and Zinc

  • Ore concentrate (Smelting) Refining (Electrolysis)
  • Runs on the principle that certain minerals have an affinity for certain oils
  • Hence the ore is mixed with water, oil and chemicals
  • The mineral particles get attach with oil bubbles and float on the surface, foam (containing mineral particles) is skimmed off


Location Factors

  • Concentration stage involves significant weight loss carried out near mining site.
  • Refining stage require lot of electricity done near large thermal plants /hydroelectric sites.
  • India doesn’t have sufficient ores of Lead/Zinc, so majority of requirement met via imports.
State Ore Smelter
Jharkhand Lead At Tundoo
Andhra Pradesh Lead Vishakhapatnam, based on imported lead concentrates
Rajasthan Zinc
  • At Debari Ore comes from Rajpur-Dariba mines + via. import
  • At Chanderia Ore comes from Bhilwara
Kerala Zinc Based on imported zinc concentrates
India Yearbook English India Yearbook Hindi Economic Survey 2017

1 Comment

  1. thankyou very much to share the knowledge.

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