Dec 24, 2010
NEW DELHI — As international defense providers look to honor their offset commitments in India, partnerships to help tap the country’s vast titanium reserves could emerge as an attractive proposition.
The main sources of titanium in India are beach sands in its southern and eastern states that contain monazite and ilmenite. But despite these resources, titanium still must be imported because of a lack of indigenous capability to convert titanium ore into metal.
While mining in India remains the bastion of government- owned enterprises, if the means of producing the metal domestically become available, sourcing titanium for defense projects could become a part of offset packages, one vendor says.
Efforts already are underway with the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) and stateowned
Kerala Minerals & Metals Ltd. (KMML) to establish a titanium dioxide plant that is expected to have an annual capacity of 500 tons. The project, which was to have been completed by July, is now expected to be commissioned in 2011, a DRDO spokesman says. The Indian Space Research Organization, which requires titanium for its space applications, has invested in the plant.
Efforts have been under way to establish facilities. Three years ago, during then-Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit, Russia and India agreed to build a 40,000-ton-per year titanium dioxide plant in the eastern state of Orissa, which was to be partly financed through repayment of India’s debt to Russia, estimated at $1-2 billion. The project remains a non-starter due to land issues.
Meanwhile, Russia-headquartered Stork Group has said it will join the proposed titanium project promoted by two Orissa-based public-sector undertakings — National Aluminium Co. Ltd. (Nalco) and Indian Rare Earths Ltd. (IREL).
Stork Group has been marketing and supplying Russian titanium products in India for 15 years to companies in aviation, space, nuclear power and other key industries.
The proposed titanium plant in Orissa initially will produce titanium slag, after processing ilmenite from a sand mine owned by IREL. The joint venture would produce the titanium metal in a later phase and will seek to import technology.
- Neelam Mathews