Mineral Resources: Iron Ore distribution in India – UPSC

In this article, You will read Mineral Resources in India (Iron Ore Distribution in India) – for UPSC IAS.

Mineral Resources

A mineral is a naturally occurring substance, representable by a chemical formula, that is usually solid and inorganic, and has a crystal structure.

More than two thousand minerals have been identified and most of these are inorganic, which are formed by the various combination of elements. However, a small proportion of the earth’s crust contains organic materials, consist of single elements such as gold, silver, diamond, and sulfur.

Mineral resources can be divided into two major categories.

  • Metallic Mineral Resources
  • Non-metallic Mineral Resources
Metallic Minerals
  • Metallic Minerals are minerals in which metal elements are present in their raw form. When metallic minerals are melted a new product is formed.
  • Metallic minerals constitute the second most important group of minerals after fossil fuels. They are reserved in Archean rocks.
  • Major examples of metallic minerals are iron ore, copper, gold, Zink, Silver, Manganese, Chromites, etc. They constitute 7% of the total mineral value in India.
  • These minerals provide a strong base for the development of the metallurgical industry, and thereby help the process of industrialization and urbanization. India has a substantial reserve of these minerals.
  • Metallic minerals are further sub-divided as ferrous and non-ferrous metallic minerals
    • The minerals containing iron are known as ferrous (Chromites, Iron ore, and manganese), and without iron are known as non-ferrous (lead, silver, gold, copper, bauxite, etc.).
  • Significance of Metallic Mineral:
    • the standard of living of the people living in a country is judged by the consumption of iron. It is the backbone of modern civilization and the foundation of basic industry.
Non-metallic Minerals
  • Non-metallic minerals do not contain any metal substances in them. Nonmetallic minerals are a special group of chemical elements from which no new product can be generated if they are melted.
  • Depending upon the origination, non-metallic minerals are either organic (such as fossil fuels also known as mineral fuels, which are derived from the buried animal and plant, e.g. such as coal and petroleum), or inorganic minerals, such as mica, limestone, graphite, etc.
Metallic Minerals are minerals in which metal elements are present in their raw form.Non-metallic minerals do not contain any metal substances in them.
When metallic minerals are melted a new product is formed.In the case of non-metallic minerals, you don’t get any new product after such a process.
Metallic minerals are usually found in igneous and metamorphic rock formations.Non-metallic minerals are often found embedded in young fold mountains and sedimentary rocks.
Metallic minerals are good conductors of electricity as well as heat.Non-metallic minerals are basically good insulators of electricity and heat.
Metallic minerals have high malleability and ductility.Non-metallic minerals, lack in malleability and ductility, and these minerals break down easily.
Metallic minerals generally have lustre.Non-metallic minerals do not have any shine or lustre.

Mineral Resources in India (Mineral Rich Regions)

There are five major mineral belts in India namely:

  • Northern Belt
  • Central Belt
  • Southern Eastern region
  • South Western region
  • North-Western region

Northern Belt: The Northern Belt comprise of the following regions-

  • Chhota Nagpur plateau:
    • Minerals found in this region is Kynite(100%), Iron (90%), Chromium(90%), Mica(75%), Coal(70%).
    • Manganese, copper, and limestone are some other minerals found in this region.
  • Assam Petroleum reserve: This region comprises the reserves of petroleum and lignite coal, tertiary coal, etc.

Central belt:

  • This region comprises the Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra region which is the extension of the Chhota Nagpur plateau.
  • There are huge reserves of Iron and limestone in Chhattisgarh.
  • Godavari-Wardha valley with huge coal reserves lies in this region.

South Eastern region

  • Eastern Karnataka: In this region, Bellary and Hospet are known for their iron reserves
  • Andhra Pradesh: Cuddapa and Kurnool region are major mining centres. Nellore in Andhra Pradesh is known for Mica reserves.
  • Telangana: Telangana is known for Bauxite reserves.
  • Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu has the highest lignite coal reserves in India.

South Western region

  • Karnataka: Dharwad region of Karnataka is known for its high mineral reserves.
    • Shimoga, Chitradurg, Yumkur, Chikmaglur are some other areas with high mineral reserves.
  • Goa is known for its rich iron reserves.
  • Ratnagiri in Maharashtra also has iron reserves.

North Western region

  • This region consists of the areas Rajasthan and Gujarat along the Aravalli Range.
  • Gujarat is known for its petroleum deposits. Gujarat and Rajasthan both have rich sources of salt.
    • Example: Salt from Kutchh and Playa Lake of Rajasthan.
  • Rajasthan is rich in building stones i.e. sandstone, granite, marble. Gypsum and Fullers earth deposits are also extensive. Dolomite and limestone provide raw materials for the cement industry.
mineral rich region in india upsc

Iron Ore Distribution in India

Iron Ore

  • Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be extracted.
  • India has large iron ore reserves. It occurs in various geological formations but major economic deposits are found in volcano-sedimentary Banded Iron Formation (BIF) from the Precambrian age. 
  • Magnetite is the finest iron ore with a very high content of iron up to 72 percent. It has excellent magnetic qualities, especially valuable in the electrical industry.
  • Hematite ore is the most important industrial iron ore in terms of the quantity used but has a slightly lower iron content than magnetite.
  • The highest producer is the Odisha Jharkhand belt, Durg Bastar Chandrapur belt, Bellary-Chitradurga-Chikmagalur-Tumkur belt, and the Maharashtra Goa belt. 

The iron ore is found in following four type:

  • Magnetite: It is the most important and best kind of iron ore. It contains about 72 percent metallic iron in it. It is found in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala.
  • Hematite: It is also an important source of Iron. It contains about 60-70 percent metallic iron in it. It is red and brown in colour. It is found in Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. In the western section, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa have this kind of ore.
  • Limonite: It contains about 30 to 40 percent metallic iron in it. It is mostly yellow in colour. It is low-grade iron ore.
  • Siderite: It has more impurities. It contains about 48 percent metallic iron content in it. It is brown in colour. It contains a mixture of iron and carbon. It is low-grade iron ore. It is self-fluxing due to the presence of lime.
Iron Ore Distribution in India UPSC IAS

Reserves and distribution of iron ore

About 95% of total reserves of iron ore is found in the States of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Goa, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.

Iron Ore Distribution in India upsc
Iron ore mines states in India

Iron Ore in Karnataka – This state has come to occupy top position in iron ore production. Here Iron ore is mainly Mined in:

  • Chikmagalur District – In Chikmagalur District high-grade iron ore deposits are those of Kemmangundi in Baba Budan Hills (Supply Iron ore to Bhadravati steel plant). On the other hand, the Kudremukh Hills in Chikmagalur District have very large deposits, but they consist of low-grade Magnetite.
    • At Kudremukh iron ore is mined on large scale for export, which is exported from New Mangalore port.
  • Bellary-Hospet area and Sandur Ranges have deposits of high grade. (Iron ore of this area serves the Vijaynagar steel plant at Hospet.)
  • Iron ores are widely distributed in the state, but high-grade ore deposits are those of Kemmangundi in Bababudan hills of Chikmagalur district and Sandur and Hospet in Bellary district (a lot of mining mafias). Most of the ores are high-grade haematite and magnetite.
  • Other mining areas in Karnataka are Chitradurga, Uttar Kannad, Shimaga, Dharwad, Tumkur, Kumaraswamy, and Ramandurg, etc.
  • Donimalai Iron Ore Mine
    • Commissioned in 1977, the mine is located in Bellary region of Karnataka.
    • It produces 4 million tonnes of Run of Mine (“ROM” means ore in its natural, unprocessed state) ore per year.
    • The average grade of ore extracted has 65% Iron.
    • Port of Export
      • Chennai outer harbour, TamilNadu: linked by 532km Rail
      • Marmagao Port, Goa: linked by 370 km Rail
    • It is being mined by the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).
      • Recently, for a short period, NMDC stopped its operation because the state government imposed an 80% premium on the iron ore sales from the mine.
      • But now lease has been extended for the next 20 years for NMDC and NMDC is resuming its operations.

Iron Ore in Orissa

  • The ores in Orissa are rich in Hematite. India’s richest Hematite deposits are located in Barabil-Koira Valley. This valley lies in Keonjhar and adjoining Sundergarh district. This state has become the 2nd largest producer of iron ore.
  • The most important deposits occur in:
    • Keonjhar
    • Sundargarh
    • Mayurbhanj
    • Koraput
    • Cuttack
    • Sambalpur

Iron Ore in Chhattisgarh

  • Chhattisgarh has about 18 percent of the total iron ore reserves of India. This state is 3rd largest producer of iron ore.
  • The iron ores are widely distributed, the prominent deposits being those of Bastar and Durg districts. Bailadila in Bastar district and Dalli Rajhara in Durg district are important producers.
  • Bailadila mine is the largest mechanized mine in Asia (Ore beneficiation only done here).
  • A 270 km long slurry (a semi-liquid mixture) pipeline is being constructed to bring the ore from the Bailadila pithead to the Vizag plant. Smelting is done in Vizag (Vishakhapatnam) Iron and Steel plant.
  • Bailadila produces high-grade ore which is exported through Vishakhapatnam to Japan (there is no iron ore in Japan, but the market is huge due to the Automobile industry) and other countries where it is in great demand.
  • The Dalli-Rajhara range is 32 km long with significant iron ore reserves with ferrous content of 68 to 69 percent.
Iron ore mines in India

Iron Ore in Goa

  • Production of iron ore in Goa started quite late and it is a recent development. Starting from a non-identity, Goa is now the fourth-largest producer of iron ore in India.
  • Goa now produces over 18 percent of the total production of India. There are nearly 315 mines in North Goa, Central Goa, and South Goa.
  • The richest ore deposits are located in North Goa. These areas have the advantage of river transport (through river Mandovi and Zuari connect through Cumberjua canal) or ropeways for local transport and that of Marmagao port for exporting the ore.
  • Most of Goa’s iron ore is exported to Japan.

Iron Ore in Jharkhand

  • Jharkhand accounts for 25 percent of reserves and over 14 percent of the total iron ore production of the country. Iron ore mining, first of all, started in the Singhbhum district in 1904 (then a part of Bihar).
  • Iron ore of the Singhbhum district is of the highest quality and will last for hundreds of years.
  • The main iron-bearing belt forms a range about 50 km long extending from near Gua to Pantha in Bonai (Orissa). The other deposits in Singhbhum include those of Budhu Buru, Kotamati Burn, and Rajori Buru.
  • The well-known Noamandi mines are situated at Kotamati Buru. Magnetite ores occur near Daltenganj in the Palamu district.
  • Less important magnetite deposits have been found in Santhal Parganas, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, and Ranchi districts.

Iron ore in Other States

  • Apart from the major producing states described above, iron ore in small quantities is produced in some other states also. They include :
    • Andhra Pradesh (1.02%): Kumool, Guntur, Cuddapah, Ananthapur, Khammam, Nellore
    • Maharashtra (0.88%): Chandrapur, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg
    • Madhya Pradesh (0.66%)
    • Tamil Nadu: Salem, North Arcot Ambedkar, Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Madurai, Nellai Kattabomman (Tirunelveli)
    • Rajasthan: Jaipur, Udaipur, Alwar, Sikar, Bundi, Bhilwara
    • Uttar Pradesh: Mirzapur
    • Uttaranchal: Garhwal, Almora, Nainital
    • Himachal Pradesh: Kangra and Mandi
    • Haryana: Mahendragarh
    • West Bengal: Burdwan, Birbhum, Darjeeling
    • Jammu and Kashmir: Udhampur and Jammu
    • Gujarat: Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Vadodara
    • Kerala: Kozhikode.
largest iron ore deposits in India

Export of iron ore from India

  • India is the fifth largest exporter of iron ore in the world. We export about 50 to 60 percent of our total iron ore production to countries like Japan, Korea, European countries, and lately to Gulf countries.
  • Japan is the biggest buyer of Indian iron ore accounting for about three-fourths of our total exports.
  • Major ports handling iron ore export are Vishakhapatnam, Paradip, Marmagao, and Mangalore.

Problem faced by iron ore mining industry in India

  • India’s iron ore mining face a lot of problems, some of them are:
    • Lack of adequate mechanization
    • Infrastructure
    • Financial Resources
    • Human Resources
    • Environmental Concerns
    • Export orientation
    • Trade Policy
    • Global Economic Slowdown
    • Many of them are found in few states only.

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