Sands of AP coast are a gold mine for sand mafia.
The sands of the 950-km-long East Coast of Andhra Pradesh, from Srikakulam in the north to Nellore in the south, is rich with the 'rare earth mineral' monazite, an ore of Thorium, a fuel for nuclear reactors. Monazite is one of the 17 rare earth elements which, as the name implies, are very scarce.
Of the total 21 million tonnes of rare earth element reserves in India, monazite itself makes up for 10.21 million tonnes with Andhra Pradesh topping the list with reserves of 3.73 million tonnes, said head of department of Geology at Andhra University, Prof. C.Kasipathy.
“Monazite is used for defence-related purposes, thorium especially is used as fuel for reactors due to its radioactive quality,” he added. Tamil Nadu stands second in the country with 1.85 million tonnes of monazite reserves.
The world’s rare earth element reserve is 150 million tonnes of which China alone accounts for 89 million tonnes followed by the Commonwealth of Inde-pendent States (CIS), the USA and India.
According to statistics of the Indian Bureau of Mines, while China produced 93,800 million tonnes of rare earths in 2011, India produced only 93 tonnes of monazite.
“The two processing units opened by private parties in collaboration with the government in Srikakulam separate monazite from beach sand - mined for other minerals - and send it to the Indian Rare Earths Limited factory in Chattrapur in Odisha. It is used for defence purposes by the Department of Atomic Energy,” said Prof. Kasipathy.
The Union government is now planning to step up indigenous production of other rare earth minerals which are components of objects we use in everyday life like smartphones, laptops, vehicles etc.Several companies are foraying into rare earth production in India. Toyota Tsusho is one such company.