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Orissa coast heavy with minerals

BHUBANESWAR: THAT the entire coastline of Orissa is a treasure trove of mineral resources has been bolstered by discovery of abundant concentrations of heavy minerals along the stretch.

Explorations have confirmed deposits of heavy minerals like ilmenite, rutile, garnet, zircon and monazite within the sand bodies of palaeo-strandlines along the shoreline at locations under Brahmagiri, Sutana-Konark, Baulapura-Bhitar Andhari (northeast of Ersama) and Ramnagar regions.

Palaeo-strand lines are the limits of the shorelines represented by sand bodies measuring several kilometers in length and 200-300 metres in width. Also called ‘ancient beach ridge complexes’, the sands are sediments of hinterland rock types brought by rivers into the sea. The waves and winds further sort and screen the deposits to form into heavy concentrations.

Analysis of the deposits have revealed ilmenite concentration to the tune of 1.0-41 percent of the sand by weight, rutile 0.57-7.77 percent, garnet 0.1- 20.8 percent, zircon 0.56-5.73 and monazite 0.14 percent- 2.57 percent. The Brahmagiri, Sutana-Konark and Ramnagar sectors have shown more of ilmenite- rutile-zircon-garnet mineral crops.

The exploration was conducted by a team of scientists of Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), Hyderabad, comprising K Jagannadha Rao, AV Subramanyam, Abhinab Kumar, TC Sushil and AK Chaturvedi and published in the latest issue of ‘Current Science’ journal.

The discovery assumes immense significance as all the minerals have valuable industrial uses. Ilmenite and rutile are ores of titanium and have important utility as base in paint, paper, plastic applications. Rutile is widely used as welding electrode covering too. Zircon is used for abrasive and insulatory purposes while larger specimens are considered gemstones. Garnet is also a gemstone but also a good abrasive used to cut steel and sand blasting purposes. Monazite is the primary ore of valuable metals as thorium, cerium and lanthanum, which have high-value industrial applications including nuclear power generation.

Using remote sensing studies through Landsat and followed by ground checking, the AMD team has found out that the ‘heavy mineral rich dunes are located 6-12 km inland from the coast and sampled up to 1.5 m in depth’. The discovery has further opened up new areas between 15-20 km inland from the coast for exploration of heavy minerals along the Orissa-Bengal stretch.