The History of India’s Mineral Sector – Essay
The history of mineral development is as old as the civilization. In case of India, the mineral production dates back to the ancient times as the mining activities can be traced as far back as 6,000 years or so. The remains of some of the old mine workings are a witness to this fact. A few of these workings have led to the discovery of a number of significant mineral deposits, which are being worked in the present time.
These include the lead-zinc deposits at Zawar, copper deposits at Khetri, and gold deposits in Karnataka. Techniques used specially in smelting were in fact ahead of the time in which they were applied. Rust-free iron pillar in New Delhi is considered to date back to the 4th Century.
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In recent times the impetus to the mineral development was imparted in the country only after the political Independence came in the year 1947 when the significance of role of minerals was realized in nation building.
On the eve of Independence, the annual value of mineral production was merely Rs. 0.58 billion and only a few minerals were mined and the country largely depended on imports of commodities such as copper, lead, zinc, sulphur, graphite, petroleum and their products. The inventory details were available only in respect of coal, iron ore, chromite, bauxite, manganese ore and magnesite.
Realising the significance of industrial development of the country, Industrial Policy Resolution was promulgated in 1956 by the Central Government. The exploration of minerals was intensified and the Geological Survey of India was strengthened for the purpose.
The Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) was established to look after the scientific development and conservation of mineral resources. IBM was also assigned the responsibility of conducting exploration with more of emphasis on coal, iron ore limestone, dolomite, and manganese ore keeping in view the requirement of the proposed steel plants. Later, in 1972 when the Mineral Exploration Corporation was established, this function was transferred to it.
Under the Industrial Policy Resolution 1956, ambitious programme of developing several industries (such as steel, non-ferrous metals, cement, power, fertilizers, etc.) were launched which required increasing quantities of minerals. Coal was the one to have received the maximum attention for being the basic fuel for a whole range of industries such as steel, railways and power plants.