Leading steel maker Tata Steel has started preparation to begin underground chromite mining at its leasehold area in Sukinda valley in jajpur district. The company had been excavating chrome ore from its mines in the area for nearly half a century by open cast method.
“Mining at SCM (Sukinda chrome mine) is fully-mechanised at present. The roadmap ahead is to operate underground mines. This will go a long way in conserving natural resources and, thereby, contribute to sustainable mining in the country,” H M Nerurkar, managing director of Tata Steel said while flagging off the preparatory work for the underground mining at Sukinda.
Underground chromite mining concept is not new in Orissa, but Tata Steel has plans to use latest available technologies based on its studies carried out earlier, which can penetrate much lower than current standards maintained by other miners in the state.
During the process, the company will use recently developed trackless mine technology that ensures complete backfilling of the voids using pastes after excavation, he said.
Sukinda Valley, which has proved reserves of 90 per cent of India’s chromite deposits, houses around a dozen chromite mines. Tata’s chromite mine in Sukinda is spread over 406 hectare.
Underground mining of chromite assumes significance given the fast depleting deposits amid higher demand and limited availability. To conserve the scarcely sold mineral, Orissa government has even recommended the central government about banning chromite ore exports.
At present, Tata Steel has a state-of-the-art chrome ore beneficiation facility at Sukinda, with a capacity to produce chromium concentrates at 650,000 tonne per annum and caters to Indian metallurgical and refractory demands.
Besides, the company is the lone Indian producer of harmless chrome concentrate, made through a patented herbal treatment process that eliminates the hazardous chromite composition.