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Kerala Minerals to produce titanium sponge for ISRO

G. K. Nair

Kochi , Jan. 3

THE Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) will set up a titanium sponge-manufacturing unit exclusively for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at a total cost of Rs 100 crore. The unit is probably the first of its kind in the country with an annual capacity of 500 tonnes.

KMML and ISRO signed an MoU on Monday for setting up the unit and the latter would finance the entire cost of the project, which would be completed in 24 months, Mr K. P. Rajendran, Managing Director, KMML, told Business Line on Tuesday. He said that work on the project would commence this month itself, as ISRO wanted it to become operational by 2007-end.

Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), Hyderabad, will provide the technology developed indigenously by it. ISRO will pay Rs 4.5 crore to the defence laboratory for the technology and training for KMML engineers and technicians, Mr Rajendran said. The capacity of the unit, at a cost of Rs 95 crore, will be expandable to 1,000 tonnes a year. The technology of DMRL is not cost effective, but the urgent requirement of titanium sponge by ISRO has necessitated the immediate setting up of the unit. This unit is being set up to meet ISRO's urgent requirement of titanium sponge, he said.

KMML, based Chavara in Kollam district, is currently setting up a 10,000 tonnes per annum capacity plant for manufacturing titanium sponge on a commercial level using a proven technology, he said. The advanced technology is available only in Russia, the US, Japan, China and Ukraine. The company is in negotiations with Russia, the US and Ukraine and a final decision on acquiring the technology would be taken soon, he said. Given the urgent requirement of ISRO and the delay in acquiring the proven technology, both had decided to set up the unit with DMRL technology, he said.

The State owned grey-gold company, KMML, will be setting up the plant to enter into the production of titanium sponge/metal as part of its diversification and expansion programme. Titanium sponge is used in aerospace and military applications and its production here will take India into the group of a few countries manufacturing this product.

The strength of KMML is the availability of infrastructure and highest titanium-bearing ore in its premises. "With the establishment of the titanium sponge unit also in the KMML campus, it would become a titanium complex, probably the first to have all the units in one compound in the world," Mr Rajendran added.

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