Uranium exploration begins in Arunachal Pradesh near Indo-China border
New Delhi: In a first-ever such exercise, the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a unit of the Department of Atomic Energy, has initiated prospecting for uranium near the Aalo town of Arunachal Pradesh, located just three kilometres away from the Indio-China border.
Uranium is used for producing nuclear energy, and the mineral of the chemical element is found at great depth and requires powerful yet controlled explosions at mine face. The low concentration mineral is generally converted into yellow cake, an intermediate step in the processing of uranium ores and transported to specific facilities in Hyderabad and other places for further concentration.
With the recent infrastructure development works in the border areas, including the construction of approach roads, has made it possible to take up the exploration works in hilly regions of Arunachal Pradesh.
“The Centre wants us to do something in Arunachal Pradesh. The rocks of Arunachal Pradesh are favourable for hosting mineralisation. Drilling has commenced only last week” and AMD was “hopeful and optimistic” of finding mineral deposits. It takes 2-3 years to decide whether it will be economically viable,” Director, Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), DK Sinha said. “Infrastructure now available to reach China borders should help cut short exploration and mining cycles to around three years from around 10 years,” Sinha further informed.
Apropos AMD website, exploration of atomic minerals in the north-eastern region began in the 1950s in Meghalaya and later extended to other states in the region. With the outcome of exploration, the Atomic department has concentrated its efforts in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, which were “identified as the most potential states”.
According to AMD, these north-eastern states hold the potential for sandstone-type, hydrothermal vein-type and unconformity-related uranium deposits, besides rare metal and rare earth deposits.
India has around 3.5 lakh tonnes of uranium resources, of which Tummalapalli in Andhra has over 2 lakh tonnes.Telangana’s Nagarjuna Sagar region is estimated to have around 20,000 tonnes of uranium reserves, and the Northeast accounts for potential 16,000 tonnes.
AMD is currently engaged in mining at Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih, and Banduhurang in Jharkhand and Thummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh along with exploratory mining in Karnataka and Rajasthan.
As of 2019, AMD had identified 3,25,000 tonnes of uranium oxide resource with a major chunk in Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Telangana along with some other states.