1. Haematite and magnetite are the most prominent of the iron ores found in India. Indian deposits of haematite belong to pre-Cambrian iron ore series and the ore is within banded iron ore formations occurring as massive, laminated, friable and also in powdery form. The major deposits of iron ore are located in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Karnataka and Goa States.
About 60% of haematite ore deposits are found in the Eastern sector and about 80% magnetite ore deposits occur in the Southern sector, especially in Karnataka. Of these, haematite is considered to be superior because of its high grade. Indian deposits of haematite belong to the pre-Cambrian iron ore series and the ore is within banded iron ore formations occurring as massive, laminated, friable and also in powder form. India possesses haematite resources of 14,630 million tones of which 7,004 million tones are reserves and 7,626 million tones are remaining resources. Major haematite resources are located mainly in Jharkhand-4036 million tons (28%), Orissa-4761 million tons (33%), Chattisgarh-2731 million tones (19%), Karnataka-1676 million tones (11%) and Goa-713 million tonnes (5%). The balance resources are spread over in the state of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Assam together contain around 4% of haematite.
Magnetite is the other principal iron ore occurring in the form of oxide which is either of igneous or metamorphoses banded magnetite silica formation, possibly of sedimentary origin. The magnetite resources are placed at 10,619 million tonnes of which only 207 million tonnes constitute reserves located mainly in Karnataka and Goa. The balance 10,413 million tonnes constitute remaining resources.
A major share of magnetite resources is located in Karnataka-7812 million tonnes (74%), Andhra Pradesh-1464 million tonnes (14%), Rajasthan-527 million tonnes & Tamil Nadu-482 million tonnes (5% each), and Goa-214 million tonnes (2%). Assam, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra together account for a meager share of magnetite resources. The most important magnetite deposits are located in Babubadan, Kudremukh, Bellary, Anadurga and Bangarkal areas of Karnataka, Goa region, Ongole and Guntur districts of Andhra Pradesh etc. Other deposits are also located in Jharkhand, Bihar, Tamilnadu, Kerala and Assam etc. However, reserves of high grade ore may be a cause of concern. The total iron ore resources are estimated at 25.25 billion tonnes, of which Hematite ore resources stands to the order of 14.63 billion tonnes and the remaining 10.61 billion tonnes are magnetite as on 1.4.2005 (Source: IBM, Nagpur).
2. Production of iron ore in the country is through a combination of large mechanised mines in both public and private sectors and several smaller mines operated in manual or semi mechanised basis in the private sector. During 2001-02, 215 numbers of iron ore mines were operating in a total 638 leases with a lease area of 1,05,093 hectares and produced 86.22 million tones of iron ore (including lumps, fines and concentrate), out of which 37 iron ore mines were working under public sector and remaining 178 mines are under private sector.
During 2005-06, 261 numbers of Iron Ore mines were operating in a total 505 leases (as on 31-03-06) with a lease area of 78,238.44 ha and produced 154.456 million tonnes of Iron Ore (including lump, fines & concentrate), out of which 41 iron ore mines were working under public sector and remaining 220 mines are under private sector. During 2006-07, India has produced 172.296 (P) million tonnes of iron ore including lump, fines & concentrate.
3. Normally, iron ore mining in India is done by opencast method and on the basis of mining methods, the mining can be broadly divided into two categories, i.e., manual and mechanized. Majority of the large mechanised mines are in the public sectors whereas manual mines are mainly in the private sector. The current production capacity of iron ore in India is around 160 Mt. The iron ore deposits of the Eastern, Central and Southern zone do not contain much overburden material except laterite and some low grade ferruginous shales and BHQ patches, whereas in Western zone, (Goa region) about 30 Mt of iron ore is produced during 2006-07 and another 2.5 to 3.5 times of the waste is excavated as overburden. In general, iron ore mining in India being done by developing benches from the top of the hill and carried downwards as the ore at the top gets exhausted. The methodology being adopted for winning of iron ore is by shovel – dumper combination in case of major mechanised iron ore mines. The bench height generally adopted in iron ore mines in India is ranging from 6meters to 14meters and the slope of the benches ranging from 450 to 600 depending on the consistency / tensile strength of the rock. However, in Goa region where the ore is softer, hydraulic excavator and wheel loaders are the principal loading equipment used, height of benches is restricted between 4Mts. and 7Mts.
4. As per the tenth 5 year plan working group committee’s projection, the expected requirements of various grades/ specifications of iron ore are estimated to be 122 million tonnes and 156 million tonnes during 2006-07 and 2011-12, respectively. However, as per National Steel Policy
2005, in order to support steel production of 110 million tonnes by 2019-20, the requirement of iron ore is placed at 190 million tonnes. Thus the projected domestic demand of iron ore will be 190 million tonnes; similarly, exports have been estimated to be around 100 million tones by 2019-20. The total demand of iron ore will be around 290 million tonnes by 2019-20. It is expected that the additional demand will be met through capacity augmentation from Bellary-Hospet sector, opening up of deposit no. 1, 4, 11B & 13 of Bailadila and capacity expansion of existing Bailadila group of mines, capacity enhancement of SAIL mines, new mines by M/s Rio Tinto in eastern sector, opening up of new deposits like Chiria, Thakurani, Taldih, Rowghat, Ramandurg, Kumarswamy etc.
5. World resources of Iron Ore are estimated to exceed 800 billion tones of crude ore containing more than 230 billion tonnes of iron. World iron ore production has touched 1690 million tonnes during 2006. Although iron ore is mined in more than 50 countries, the bulk of world production comes from just a few countries. The five largest producers, in decreasing order of production of gross weight of ore, were Brazil, China, Australia, India & Russia. Brazil was the largest producer in gross weight of ore produced. Open cast mines in China, CIS countries are now working at greater depths (sometimes more than 300m below ground level). This has necessitated adopting in-pit crushing with conveying system of ore transportation. Sweden is the only country where all its iron production (24Mt) comes from underground iron ore mines. Underground iron ore mining are also being practiced to an extent of 10 to 15% of total production in China and CIS countries.
Australia and Brazil are operating in fully open cast methods. The control of Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) or Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is the single largest environmental problem in these countries.