Plan to set up tech plant
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- Published 25.10.11
|IMMT building in Bhubaneswar. Telegraph picture|
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 24: The Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT) here has perfected the technology of processing ilmenite, a compound of iron and titanium, which is iron-black or steel-gray, found abundantly in the sands of Orissa’s beaches.
IMMT scientists are now planning to set up a demonstration plant at Orissa Sands Complex, a division of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) at Chatrapur, for processing ilmenite as the ore is found in the beach sand of Chhatrapur and is being processed by IREL. The cost-effective technology will work wonders for extracting titanium dioxide and high-value iron from low-grade ilmenite.
Ilmenite is non-toxic and its use in biomedical substances does not create any physiological problem. On the other hand, titanium, in its pure metallic and alloy forms, finds applications in aerospace, defence applications, chemical and related metallurgical industries.
“The ilmenite processing technology developed by IMMT scientists will help the nation as the prime raw material for titanium production — rulite — is now in short supply. So, ilmenite is the best alternative raw material for fulfilling the demand of titanium,” said P.S. Mukherjee, chief scientist and head, advanced materials and technology department, IMMT.
“The new technology serves two benefits — it does not produce toxic by-products and it produces high value iron as a value-added by-product for the automobile industry,” said the chief scientist.
Till date, many technologies for ilmenite processing have failed, stalled by pollution control authorities or not in used for their toxic chemical by-products.
“But this new process is an environment-friendly one. This is for the first time such a technology is being planned in the country. With proper industry support and more and more R&D support, it can be developed further,” the scientist said.
The world’s reserve of ilmenite ore is estimated at around 1.8 to 2 billion tonnes and India has the largest and richest reserve. The commercial deposits are found in the beach sands of Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. However, only 0.4 million tonnes are processed by IREL. Majority of the deposits are exported as pure ilmenite without any value addition.
IMMT director Baradakanta Mishra said: “Processing technologies of two metals — nickel and ilmenite — perhaps is the best contribution of IMMT to the country. However, more financial help should be extended to the laboratory by the industry and the government. Even with a limited reserve, China is supplying 70 per cent of the Earth’s rare materials whereas we are exporting valuable sand-rich ores to foreign countries without any value addition. The pilot plant should be scaled up and more fund flow to IMMT can result in innovative research in mineral processing.”