Minerals like land and water are invaluable treasures of the earth. Without them, we cannot think of industrialisation and hence the development of our economy. In many countries, they are the main source of national income. The social and economic development of a nation depends on its capacity to utilise its natural resources, avoiding its wasteful use to the extent possible. The most important characteristics of minerals which have bearing on our present and future well-being is that they are practically lost, once used. They are non-renewable resources. Hence, the need to conserve these resources and to recycle them cannot be over emphasised.
- Among the many causes of the fall of the Roman Empire, the depletion of the mineral deposit and the erosion of soil is said to be one.
- During the recent past, several mining towns turned into ‘ghost towns’ in many parts of the developed world.
- The Canadian township of Elliot Lake which turned out to be “the first nuclear-age ghost town” is the most recent example of this process. Built at an enormous cost in response to the discovery of uranium in mid fifties, its population declined from 25,000 in 1958 to 5,000 in 1961 as soon as an alternative source was found by the U.S.A.
It only shows that prosperity based exclusive on mineral and energy resources cannot be taken for granted as permanent.
Mineral Resources Of India
India is richly endowed with minerals. Our country possesses more than 100 minerals. Out of 100 minerals, there are 30 minerals which have economic significance.
- Some of the examples are coal, iron ore, manganese, bauxite, mica etc.
- The situation is also satisfactory in feldspar, fluorides, limestones, dolomite and gypsum etc.
- The reserves of petroleum and some non-ferrous metallic minerals especially copper, lead, zinc, tin, graphite are inadequate.
- Non-ferrous minerals are those which do not contain iron.
- Country fulfils internal demands for these minerals by importing them from other countries.
Under colonial rule, India was least industrialised and most of the minerals were exported during British period. After independence though export continues but also mineral production has picked up in consonance with the increasing industrial demands in the country. As a result the total value of all minerals produced in the country reached about Rs 744 billion in 2004 – 05 from Rs 892 million in 1950-51. Therefore, there has been 834 times increase during the past fifty-five years.
If we look at mineral wise break up, then –
- Fuel minerals (coal, petroleum, natural gas and lignite) accounted for about 77%, metallic minerals for about 10% and non-metallic minerals for about 3% of total value of minerals produced.
- In metallic mineral category – iron ore, chromite, manganese, zinc, bauxite, copper, gold are important minerals.
- In non-metallic mineral category – limestone, phosphorite, dolomite, kaolin, magnesite, barytes and gypsum are important.
If we look at individual minerals in terms of value, then following minerals (in decreasing order of value) are important –
- coal (36.65%),
- petroleum (25.48%),
- natural gas (12.02%),
- iron ore (7.27%),
- lignite (2.65%),
- limestone (2.15%),
- chromite (1.1%).
Bibliography : NIOS Geography Book