German hope for mica

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  • Published 14.09.11

Ranchi, Sept. 13: German corporate giant Merck might soon resuscitate Jharkhand’s mica industry if a proposal aimed at tapping 10,000 metric tonnes of the mineral in Koderma and Giridih gets the green light.

The chemical, pharmaceutical and paints behemoth today put forth the demand for mining natural mica from the rich deposits in the two districts after meeting chief minister Arjun Munda.

The company is interested in procuring the mineral, promising to mine it legally without involving child labourers and open up an employment lifeline for many in the neighbouring districts.

At present, a majority of the mica traders in the region are illegal with elders as well as minors engaged in collecting dhibra (smaller mica pieces) and selling it to local traders at meagre rates.

The Merck delegation of Hans Christian Stiasny, Frank Westmeier and Probir Ghosh met Munda at his Project Building office this afternoon. The meeting was also attended by chief secretary S.K. Choudhary, mines secretary A.K. Sarkar, industry secretary A.P. Singh and principal secretary D.K. Tiwary.

The industry secretary told The Telegraph that at present only about 2,000 metric tonnes of mica was produced by five legally operating mines in Koderma and Giridih. The quantum of export, however, is manifold, Singh said, indicating large-scale illegal mining and trade of the mineral.

The Merck representatives were accompanied by two exporters, who were interested in applying for mica mining in the region, sources said.

They have been told to meet the mines secretary tomorrow to discuss the nitty-gritty of earning mining leases in the region.

Sources said that during the meeting Choudhary asked the German representatives to ensure their firm complied with the clause of value-addition of the precious mineral within Jharkhand. Sources added that the German company responded positively to the state’s requests.

A rough estimate suggests that about 5,000 labourers are involved in mica mining, including a high percentage of child labourers.

Highly placed government sources said executives of Merck had expressed willingness to make a foray into mica trade and promote its legal mining in Jharkhand during a visit of an Indian delegation to Germany on April 8, 2011.

Industry sources said that India was the only source of natural mica, which is high in demand at present, as it was required to manufacture paint for high-end automobile products across the world.

Notably, Munda had led the Indian delegation, which participated in the famous Hanover Messe and visited other industrial hubs of Gemany during a tour of the nation between April 5 and 10 this year.

Munda had also invited different German delegations to Jharkhand.