12 Feb COARSE & FINE AGGREAGTES DEAD END: A WAY FORWARD
With Dr. Nandakumar, V
Although the state of Kerala is not endowed with vast reserves of major ore or industrial mineral deposits, right from the days of British Raj, mineral sands of Chavara-Kayamkulam belt was a world renowned natural resource native to India. But for nearly a century, the country was selling the mineral separates without any value addition. Ilmenite sand, the chief among the placer minerals, was partly exported and partly consumed by the indigenous paint industry. The sponge Titanium plant under construction in Chavara is certainly a departure from the tradition. Moreover, Kerala’s Kaolinite clay with a high international rating also attracted many international buyers as well as indigenous paper and paint makers.
But of late, other minor minerals like construction rock, coarse and fine aggregates (C&FA) have assumed stupendous importance as a result of new construction boom, in education, housing and commercial blocks. Traditional source of sand was the channels of 41 west flowing rivers. To the dismay of the aam aadmi the removed sand was only disproportionately replaced by the natural processes in the channels, pushing the society and the system into a double disadvantage. Firstly, lack replenishment on a one to one basis ruined the river ecology as well as the natural system. As the members of the society had to continue with the construction of basic necessities like houses, fine aggregate had to be imported from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu at a large cost and unexpectedly long delays, and hence an overall cost escalation. Thus the construction sand and coarse aggregate are a vexing problem to the administration as well as the society at large.
Only glimmer of hope in the current situation is the introduction of crusher sand as a substitute for natural sand and introduction of hollow cement blocks in a massive scale. Though the obvious lapse is the PWD code or government policy not endorsing both of these new inputs spontaneously entering the construction sector on the principle of demand and supply of acceptable substitute.
With the annual GDP growth at the rate of 9-9%, and the GOIs new policy regarding, new air ports, sea ports, high-speed railroads and net work of four lane highways, new schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, large and small modern playgrounds and parks, and other recreational facilities, the demand for coarse and fine aggregates will climb steeply defying the ability of any average mind’s imagination. Undoubtedly, Kerala also will have its own share of the infrastructure construction/modernization boom, sourcing the fine/coarse aggregate will no longer be possible from the traditional sources like stream channels and internally. Instead import from the neighboring states, viz., Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and southern AP may become a reality.
When massive demands are in place, naturally to guarantee fair price, quality and equity new institutional mechanisms, sources, mode of transport, distribution etc need to be identified, designed and put in place by the states legislature. A large team of managers, geologists, hydrogelogists, engineers, GIS specialists, legal advisors should be put in place, i.e., a structure like or even better than the current public distribution system, in order to acquire leases for exploration, evaluation, quantification, exploitation processing and grading and final transport to the destination either by special tanker trucks for loading and transport of granular solids, or rail road cars and tractor trailers.
New super quarries or quarry clusters or even subsurface mines will have to be sited in the various districts of the state to cater the local needs. The new regulations for operating a earth and environment friendly modern quarry needs to be designed and tested for implementing. Mine plan and annual rate of mining, impact on t he ground water and physical, biological and human systems in the area around the quarries need advance planning and design. Scientific plans for quarry/mine exit and rehabilitation of the site and immediate environs are equally important and needs inclusion and mandating at the pre-exploitation permit stage.
Outsourcing of C&FA from the neighboring states will become a reality in the state. Properties can be acquired under lease from the concerned states. Yet another area needing careful study and technology development is separation of FA grade material from the mine over burden that are stored and stacked currently. The overburden stacks in NLC and Gold Workings (in Mysore) and the rock and rubble stored in the overburden stacks of many limestone quarries associated with cement factories in the neighboring states.
(Dr Nandakumar,V presented the paper in the Kerala Vikasana Congress by KPCC On13, 11, Trivandrum