Its action time

M V Ramasurya, Economic Times, September 2, 2002 :

Apart from aluminium and copper and mining for other precious metals, action is slowly unfolding on other metal fronts as well.
If industry sources are to be believed, then the next focus of action for the mining activity in the country would be lead and zinc.
This interest in lead and zinc is also based on the recent report brought out by the International Lead and Zinc Study Group. The group has forecast a 2.7% rise in lead usage in Asia which will be balanced by an anticipated fall of 4.3% in the United States. In the west, however, demand is forecast to fall by 1.1%.
According to sources in the industry, mining major Australian Indian Resources (AIR) is planning to foray into lead-zinc in a major way. The company is currently drilling for gold in the Kolar regions of Karnataka. The foray into lead and zinc is scheduled to be initiated in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
The plans will be pitted against the background of the study group’s recent report which spelled significant reductions in lead mine output globally of 7.2%, and about 9.7% in western countries. This is principally due to reductions in the US and due to mine closures in Canada, Spain, Morocco and Sweden.
It is also anticipated that decreases in refined lead metal output in Europe, China and the United States will largely be offset by rises in Australia, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Morocco. Overall, production of refined lead metal is expected to be 0.8% lower globally than in ’01 and 0.5% higher than that in the western world.
As for zinc, there is likely to be a 1.4% growth in the global demand for refined zinc and 1% in the west. Usage in China is expected to rise by 3.4%, the report says adding that in the United States it could grow by 1.8% and by 1.4% in Europe.
Despite recent mine closures in Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and the US, global zinc mine output is expected to increase by 0.7% worldwide and by 0.3% in the west. This is primarily due to substantial increases in Australia, Peru and Mexico.
Refined zinc metal output will also rise by 3.6% globally and by 5.5% in the west. Significant increases are expected in Brazil, Korea and in Spain. These will outweigh anticipated reductions in China, Finland, Peru and the US. AIR is planning to set up four companies in the country to carry out its mining operations here.
While the lead-zinc plans could entail substantial investment, it is not clear how much that would be.
The cost of AIR’s gold project has been estimated at $30m, company chairman and executive director Charles Devenish had told ET.
AIR already has three subsidiary companies here, Geomysore, Jhansi Mining and Goa Minerals, which have been granted exclusive prospecting rights over 6,371 sq km of land in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
The company also has pending applications for reconnaissance permits in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The permits are for known resources of gold, silver, copper, zinc, tungsten and other metals.
In zinc, India’s major known resources are in Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan accounts for almost 90% of the zinc deposits in the country and 75% of its lead. Other major companies like BHP, Rio Tinto and Phelps Dodge are spending up to $10 million annually to explore minerals in Rajasthan.