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Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 20

GOLD prospecting in the Nilambur belt in Malappuram district by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Department of Mining and Geology, Kerala, has revealed presence of deposits estimated to be worth Rs 600 crore at current gold prices.

Announcing this, Dr M.M. Nair, Deputy Director-General, GSI, told newspersons here that gold ore reserves of 80,000 tonnes have been identified in the Kottathara region of Nilambur alone.

Ore from the Kottathara area is estimated to contain up to 13.8 gm/tonne of gold. According to Mr Nair, mining is currently considered viable for any ore sample that yields up to a low of four gm/tonne of gold.

As part of the strategy for mining in the area, the Department of Mining and Geology, Kerala, is tying up with the Mineral Exploration Corporation for `cluster drilling' in the area, said Mr N. Krishna Kumar, Director.

The Centre has allotted Rs 1.77 crore for the project. Additionally, the State Government will put in 15 per cent of this amount as its contribution.

Globally, the strategy is to tap minor deposits, which translates into the least minimum risk to environment.

In Nilambur, the gold deposits lie scattered. The State Mining and Geology Department is now proposing to consult with Hutti Gold Mines in Karnataka for exploiting these minor deposits.

The GSI will also be involved in the process, said Dr R.S. Nair, Director, GSI-Kerala, who was also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, mineral prospecting in Kozhikode and Malappuram has revealed five iron ore deposits from these districts. The GSI-Kerala estimated the reserves to be around 96 million tonnes of low-grade iron ore. Bauxite deposits have been identified in Neeleswaram (Kasaragod) and some areas in Thiruvananthapuram district.

Cluster drilling: The decision to go for cluster drilling in the Nilambur belt has been taken as per the recommendations of a sub-committee of the Central Geological Programming Board that deals with metallic mineral explorations in the country. A two-day meeting of the sub-committee concluded here on Saturday.

The sub-committee, which has on it as members officials from GSI, various State Government departments, public sector undertakings, private enterprises and multinational companies, reviewed 133 ongoing mineral investigation programmes in the country.

The sub-committee noted that the Department of Mining and Geology and the GSI have already been involved in prospecting for gold in Nilambur and Attappady (Palakkad).

The meeting went on to review the progress of the ongoing investigation and noted that the emerging situation in Nilambur called for detailed prospecting through the resort of what is called `cluster drilling'.

According to an official spokesman, cluster drilling will start as soon as the Department of Environment and Forests issues its mandatory clearances. It was in this context that the proposal for joint efforts by roping in the Mineral Exploration Corporation was mooted.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 21, 2005)
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