Dr. S.L. Marbaniang
North East India (NEI) originally comprised of seven separate states of the region – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. A certain Assamese scholar dubbed them as the Seven Sisters. Only a few years back, another state, namely Sikkim, was added to the group by the Central Government for administration purposes. The North Eastern Council (NEC) is the apex body that oversees development of infrastructures.
The region offers a unique agglomeration comprising varied cultures, languages, and dialects, different forms of belief and worship, and diverse ways of life. The differences are so contrast, never to be found anywhere in India. In brief, the North-Eastern Region (NER) can be rightly called to be a mini India.
When one glances at the topography of NER, it is, indeed, a panoramic view and an awe-inspiring landscape, each unit having distinct features of its own. The spectacular physiographic set up includes that stunning Himalayan mountain belt in the North, the rough inaccessible Indo-Myanmar Range in the east, the mighty Brahmaputra River meandering across the extensive Assam plains, the isolated hills of the South West sloping down towards Bangladesh, and a thin stretch of land acting as a bottle-neck that connects the region with the rest of the India subcontinent.
Within these fascinating and fabulous environment of NER, it is said that rich potential wealth of mineral resources are lying untapped, ready to be exploited for the benefit of the people. Accordingly, Geological Survey of India (GSI), a Government of India establishment, has taken up the challenge of conducting survey in the scattered areas of the region. The findings are quite encouraging.
Parts of Mokokchung, Longleng and Tuensanj districts have rich deposits of petroleum oil. In the Barail range of lower Assam, there is a thick and well-bedded sandstone (80%) and thin band of shale (20%) with coal seam (1-2 metre thick). All along the foothills of Assam-Arunachal, scientists have found evidences of rich mineral deposits. These are concentrated in Sonitpur district of Assam and West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Quartzite deposits are detected in the eastern region of Shillong basin, in parts of East Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills districts of Meghalaya. Sedimentary rocks of Mizoram state offer evidences of mineral presence. The areas which have substantive resources are Ngopa, Khazawl, Champhai and Serchhip districts.
Geochemmical mapping (GCM) was taken up in three areas of NER and these were Goalpara and Bongaigaon districts of Assam, parts of East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, parts of West and South districts of Sikkim. Similarly, geophysical mapping (GPM) was conducted in parts of East and West Meghalaya. Granite rocks which are of use in day-to-day use in households and industries are located in and around Shillong. Some of these rocks are found to possess magnetic values.
There are potentialities of iron ore deposits in the northern part of East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. To the east, and adjacent to it, bedrock samples of Athiabari, West Khasi Hills district contain iron. During survey, the scientists of GSI have found that iron ore bands occur not only within the deep bowels of the earth but also occur as floats.
Manipur has potential deposits of platinum group of elements (PGE) Massive chromite occurs in the state. Mentionably, platinum is a very costly mineral, more than gold in value. The metal is very useful in electrical industry and radio-active research. With regard to base metal like copper, Umphyrnai and Pomlakrai are taken up for investigation. Occurrence of secondary uranium-lead and thorium has also been reported.
Investigation for base metal and gold was taken up in Chakung-jugdum area, West district of Sikkim. Substantive amount of copper is also reported to be present in the same belt. Beyond these belts, traces of gold and copper are also reported to be quite sizable quantity.
GSI has conducted survey in Assam on industrial minerals. Glass sand in Jiyajuri – Chapanala areas, Nagaon district of Assam is detected to be of substantive amount to meet the demand of glass industries in Assam. Quartzite occurs in Pulibagan to the West and in Parkup to the East. This friable quartzite appears to be suitable for glass sand industry. If properly exploited, the yield of quartzite from the region between Jiyajuri and Champawati is expected to be huge considering the width of only this particular deposit which varies between 0.5 km and 1.5 km, without taking into account the lay stretch land. Over and above, Meghalaya has been known to be gifted with various other minerals like phosphates, kaolin and china clay, dolomite, silimanite, carborundum etc. Rich deposit of high class value uranium are found in Domiasait, West Khasi Hills district and its neighbouring areas , as well as in certain locations near Sohra. However with regard to uranium exploration, because of its highly radioactive property which is detrimental to health, people in the State have frequently expressed their strong reservations.
The Ministry of Mines, GOI is responsible for survey and exploration of all minerals, other than coal and lignite, petroleum, natural gases and atomic minerals. These minerals include aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, gold, nickel, etc. GSI whose headquarter is at Kolkata, West Bengal is an attached office, and Indian Bureau of Mines, with its headquarter at Nagpur, Maharashtra is subordinate office of the Ministry.
According to the report by the Government of India, commissioned by the Ministry of Mines and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), there is a great potentiality of job opportunities in mining sector. A report on Human Resources and Skills has spelled out increase in mining production will lead to an increase in manpower from the present 0.9 million to 1.1 million in the year 2017 and 1.2 million in the year 2025. Recommendations, with stress and qualification for scientists and researchers, so that mining can be carried out successfully on a scientific manner have been prepared and submitted to the Planning Commission, GOI.
Besides job opportunities, royalty and cess will increase positively and the money can then be ploughed back for the welfare activities of the citizens. Schemes and projects for the upliftment of the people and development of infrastructures can be undertaken with least hitch and fund requirement. For example, royalty from major mineral, excluding coal and lignite, in Meghalaya for the year 2009-10, was about more than Rupees seven crores.
[Ref.: Union Ministry of Mines, 2010-11]