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Atomic minerals deposits found in AP coast

Amit Mitra

The mineral sand deposits along the Srikakulam coast, extending up to 21 km between the Nagavali and Vamsadhara rivers, have shown an average heavy mineral grade of 34.36 per cent.

VISAKHAPATNAM, Dec. 26

AFTER hogging the national limelight recently in the wake of biggest deep water gas strike in the country in the last three decades by Reliance Industries Ltd in the Krishna-Godavari basin, Andhra Pradesh seems to have made another rich strike in a different sector.

It has been revealed that the Srikakulam coast, bordering Orissa, is found to contain one of the richest heavy mineral bearing deposits in this part of the country. This finding, which was disclosed by the Beach Sand and Offshore Investigation Group of the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research, Department of Atomic Energy at the 19th convention of the Indian Association of Sedimentologists recently, is likely to throw open fresh opportunities for investments and economic development of the State.

According to the findings, the important economic heavy minerals identified in the deposits include garnet, sillimanite, and ilmenite as major constituents, while rutile, leucoxene, zircon, monazite, pyroxene and amphiboles have been found to occur as minor constituents with traces of magnetites.

The Eastern Ghat group of rocks that form the hinterland geology and occupy a major part of the drainage basin of Nagavali and Vamsadhara rivers from the "provenance'' for these minerals.

Based on the geomorphic setting, the sand dunes have been categorised into three domains — fore, inter and rear dunes. Garnet, ilmenite and sillimanite, in order of abundance, together constitute more than 90 per cent of the total heavy minerals in all the three geomorphic domains, according to the finding.

It has been reported that the fore dunes, forming fairly continuous ridges, have an average width of 250 metres and height between six to 10 metres. These dunes were found to be dominated by "appreciable'' heavy mineral concentration ranging between 35 per cent to 40 per cent, with the distribution pattern indicating abundance of garnet (35 to 48 per cent) as compared to ilmenite (28 to 35 per cent) and sillimanite (20 to 25 per cent).

The rear dune domain, established as a well-developed "dunal complex with stabilised dunes'' and dominated by fine sands, has been found to contain a higher content of ilmenite (30 to 35 per cent).

The inter dunes, lying between the fore and rear dune domains, was found to be dominant with medium to coarse sand, with the heavy mineral concentration varying from 25 to 32 per cent.

A separate study of the ilmenite deposits along Srikakulam coast has revealed that the mineral exhibited high variability in terms of grain morphology and properties of colour, reflectance and zoning.

Different agencies are now being involved to undertake fresh work to further characterise the ilmenite deposits for development of better processing strategies.

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