Mineral Technologies to focus on silica, coal beneficiation

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on March 18, 2020 Published on March 18, 2020

Glen D’Costa, Regional Manager-India, Mineral Technologies   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Company looks to different growth avenues following a slowdown in mineral sands segment, particularly in the private sector

Mineral Technologies, a part of the Australia-based Downer group, is looking to focus on the beneficiation of coal and silica following a slowdown in demand for mining and processing of mineral sands, particularly in the private sector. The Central government had, last year, ‘abruptly prohibited’ the mining of monazite mineral by private entities and granting operating rights only to state-run companies.

According to Glen D’Costa, Regional Manager-India, Mineral Technologies, there is good opportunity to beneficiatesilica, which is a by-product of the mineral sands business. Silica is an important raw material for glass industry. This apart, coal beneficiation would be a key area of focus through sister company QCC, which has been merged with Mineral Technologies last year.

“Talking about areas for growth in FY-21, I would say silica is a big market for us at the moment. Coal beneficiation will be a focus area for us going forward through our sister company QCC. They are going to operate through the Mineral Technologies’ local office,” D’ Costa told BusinessLine.

The company has been doing a “lot of work” (in coal beneficiation) over the last two years, and has been meeting with officials from Coal India Ltd and government bodies.

“We have done due diligence for all the mining leases for a private mine owner in India — one of the largest private sector mine owners — for coal beneficiation. We have submitted our report after due diligence and we look forward to working with them to construct the washeries in the future,” he said, without divulging further details.

Business growth

Despite a drop in the mineral sands processing business from the private sector, the company has been able to grow at a steady rate of around 20 per cent on a year-on-year basis. The growth is mainly on the back of the company’s ability to work around other minerals and look at alternative sources of business.

“We have been lucky enough that when one sector closes another one opens up….. like when iron ore closed down, silica opened up for us and now when mineral sands in private sector is closing up, iron ore is picking up again. So there is always going to be flow of business from different sectors. You can find opportunities across the sectors,” he said.

While mineral sands processing in the private sector has come to a standstill, it is still on at state-run companies, thereby giving the company an avenue to tap.

In terms of revenues, government may command around 80 per cent of the company’s total business; however, in terms of clientele, it still deals with a lot of small private sector players, he said.

Policy changes

According to D’Costa, one of the biggest challenges of operating in India is dealing with the regulatory changes from time to time. Sustainability in policy-making is important to attract investments, particularly in the mining sector in India.

“It is very challenging as an Australian company, because being registered in India, we tend to accept what the government throws at us and tend to adapt and live with it. But as a foreign firm that has a substantial amount of business coming from India, we are always looking for a more sustained way of policy-making. The policy has been changing dynamically from time to time, and not always for the better,” he said.

Published on March 18, 2020
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