GSI attracts up strategic plan to step up exploration

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 5

With the demand for rare earth elements (REE) increasing significantly, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has drawn up a strategic plan for enhancing REE exploration in India that outlines a roadmap for the next five years.

REEs are a group of seventeen metals that are used in a wide range of critical products enabling many emerging green energy technologies, high tech applications and defence systems. This includes electronics, medical instrumentation, renewable energy, alloys, high strength magnets, ceremics, hybrid vehicles, lasers, nuclear science, biofuels and rechargeable batteries.

REEs are characterized by high density, high melting point, high conductivity and high thermal conductance. These are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust, but minable concentrations are less common than for most other elements. The REE-bearing minerals are diverse and often complex in composition with a very low concentration of metal, making it difficult to locate and identify.

At present, India obtains its REE raw materials from foreign sources like Canada, Russia and China. According to available information, China id the world’s largest produced or REEs, with an output of 132,000 metric tonnes in 2019, followed by the Unites States with 26,000 metric tones. India produced 3,000 metric tonnes that year.

 According to the GSI plan, these  mineral commodities need to be explored with modern concepts and tools for possible breakthrough requiring high investments in sophisticated survey and spatial data management technologies to produce more detailed data and information of areas and depths so far unexplored.

Specific and high precision laboratory studies aimed at guiding and substantiating field studies pertaining to ore localization are the need for success exploration for REE minerals, the plan adds.

Intensified exploration efforts in the blocks delineated in and around the first order target areas by detailed surveys and follow up exploratory drilling, all potential blocks in hard rock terrain tol be taken up phase wise for exploratory drilling and laboratory analysis for resource augmentation, reconnaitory and detailed surveys to delineate potential blocks and systematic general exploration of shoreline and inland areas are among steps listed out by the GSI.

GSI will also focus its exploration efforts on various potential geological environments and areas which warrant accelerated exploration efforts. Concentration of REE elements will also be studied in the suitable bauxite deposits having a genetic linkage with REE rich segments.

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