India’s minerals are unevenly distributed, with some areas being very rich and others having none. Areas with high rainfall lack limestone, gypsum, and salts, which dissolve in water.
The thick layers of alluvium (soil) in the northern plains of India completely cover the bedrock, making the region poor in mineral resources. The Himalayas have a variety of rocks, but their complex geological structure makes mining them too expensive and difficult.
Therefore, India’s rich mineral zone is limited to the old, crystalline rock structures of the plateaus and low hills of peninsular India. This has resulted in the formation of well-defined mineral belts, which are briefly described below:
The Geology of Riches
India is a land of geological wonder, and this wonder is mirrored in its mineral wealth. The Earth’s internal structure in India is a product of ancient, hard rocks, resulting in the presence of an astonishing variety of minerals. It’s no exaggeration to say that almost every type of mineral finds a home in India, with a special spotlight on Gondwana rocks.
The Peninsular Plateau: Home to Metallic Treasures
When we journey to the heart of India’s mineral wealth, we find ourselves in the peninsular plateau region. Here, within the old crystalline rocks, lies a treasure trove of metallic minerals. These minerals are the lifeblood of various industries, and they hold the key to India’s growth story.
Elements on Earth
The Earth is comprised of a diverse array of elements, present in solid form on its outer surface and in hot, molten form on its interior. Approximately 98% of the Earth’s crust is composed of a select group of eight elements:
The remaining portion consists of various elements, including titanium, hydrogen, phosphorus, manganese, sulfur, carbon, nickel, and others.
What Are Minerals?
The elements in the Earth’s crust are seldom found in isolation; rather, they tend to combine with one another to create various compounds known as minerals. Therefore, a mineral can be defined as a naturally occurring substance, possessing both organic and inorganic characteristics. It exhibits an organized atomic structure, a well-defined chemical composition, and distinct physical properties.
Minerals are typically composed of two or more elements, although there are instances of single-element minerals like sulfur, copper, silver, gold, and graphite. Despite the limited number of elements that make up the Earth’s lithosphere, they combine in numerous ways to produce a wide variety of minerals.
It is worth noting that there are over 2,000 identified minerals in the Earth’s crust. However, the most commonly occurring ones can be categorized into six major mineral groups, often referred to as major rock-forming minerals.
The primary source of all minerals is the superheated magma within the Earth’s interior. As magma cools, mineral crystals form, leading to the systematic development of minerals in a sequence that ultimately solidifies to create rocks.
Additionally, certain substances like coal, petroleum, and natural gas have an organic origin and exist in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms, respectively.
Mineral Resources in India
India is blessed with abundant mineral resources. These valuable treasures are hidden within the rocks of our land. Here’s a simplified look at where we find them:
- Variety of Minerals: India has a vast array of minerals because the rocks here are quite ancient. Almost every type of mineral can be discovered, especially in the Gondwana rocks.
- Metallic Minerals: Most of the metals we use are found in old crystalline rocks on the peninsular plateau. These rocks hold a special place for metallic minerals.
- Coal Reserves: Coal is a significant energy source, and India has over 97% of its coal reserves in specific regions: Damodar, Sone, Mahanadi, and Godavari valleys.
- Petroleum Reserves: We also have petroleum reserves, which are like liquid gold. They are found in places like Assam, Gujarat, and offshore in the Arabian Sea at Mumbai High.
- Eastward Wealth: Most of our major mineral resources are found to the east of a line connecting Mangalore and Kanpur. This part of India is where the Earth’s hidden treasures are plentiful.
India’s land is rich with minerals waiting to be discovered and put to good use!
Five Mineral Belts in India
India’s mineral landscape is far from uniform; it’s a mosaic of unique belts, each with its own geological narrative:
1. North-Eastern Peninsular Belt
- Geographical Region: Comprising the Chhota Nagpur Plateau and Odisha Plateau.
- Location: Spans across the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha.
- Rich Mineral Deposits: This region is India’s richest mineral belt, containing abundant resources such as coal, iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, copper, kyanite, chromite, beryl, apatite, and more.
- Comprehensive Variety: Virtually all major minerals found in India can be located in this belt.
- Significance: Often referred to as the “mineral heartland” of India due to its exceptional mineral wealth.
- Key Mineral Percentages (According to Wadia): Includes 100% of India’s Kyanite, 93% of iron ore, 84% of coal, 70% of chromite, 70% of mica, 50% of fire clay, 45% of asbestos, 45% of china clay, 20% of limestone, and 10% of manganese.
- Ongoing Changes: The mineral landscape of this region has seen changes in recent years.
2. Central Belt
- Geographical Region: Encompassing parts of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
- Size: The second-largest mineral belt in India.
- Mineral Diversity: Large deposits of various minerals like manganese, bauxite, limestone, marble, coal, gems (such as Panna diamonds), mica, iron ore, graphite, etc.
- Unsurveyed Wealth: Despite its significance, a comprehensive survey is still needed to fully understand the mineral resources within this belt.
3. Southern Belt
- Geographical Region: Encompasses the Karnataka plateau and extends into the contiguous Tamil Nadu upland.
- Similar Minerals: Shares similarities with the North-Eastern Peninsular Belt, particularly in the presence of ferrous minerals and bauxite.
- Lacks Coal: Notable for the absence of coal deposits, except for lignite found at Neyveli.
- Missing Minerals: Unlike the North-Eastern Peninsular Belt, it lacks mica and copper deposits.
- Reduced Mineral Diversity: Due to the absence of coal, mica, and copper, its mineral diversity is not as extensive as that of the North-Eastern Peninsular Belt.
4. South-Western Belt
- Geographical Region: Encompasses Western Karnataka and Goa.
- Minerals Found: Known for its deposits of iron ore, garnet, and clay.
5. North-Western Mineral Belt
- Situated along the majestic Aravali range in Rajasthan and adjacent parts of Gujarat.
- A relatively new development, showing great promise in the mining of various non-ferrous metals such as copper, lead, zinc, along with uranium, mica, stellite, beryllium, and precious stones like aquamarine and emerald.
- Gujarat, within this belt, is emerging as a significant producer of petroleum, in addition to gypsum, manganese, salt, bauxite, and more.
Mineral Belts of India Map
Other Scattered Mineral Reserves
- Beyond the primary mineral belts, India’s mineral wealth can be found dispersed in various regions.
- Assam boasts reserves of petroleum and lignite, contributing to the nation’s energy resources.
- In the Himalayan region, deposits of coal, bauxite, copper, and slate are scattered, enriching the region’s geological diversity.
- Offshore reserves of oil and natural gas are present in locations like Mumbai High and the Godavari basin.
- Advancements in technology have extended mineral exploration to the seabed. This presents exciting opportunities for extracting substantial quantities of oil, natural gas, uranium, manganese, copper, zinc, lead, and various other valuable minerals from the ocean floor.
The Himalayan Mineral Belt
The Himalayas, nature’s magnificent creation, also play a role in India’s mineral story. Both the eastern and western parts of the Himalayas host copper, lead, zinc, cobalt, and tungsten deposits. In Assam’s serene valleys, we find precious mineral oil deposits.
Treasures Under the Indian Ocean
The seabed beneath the Indian Ocean is hiding a wealth of valuable resources. Let’s take a closer look in simpler terms:
- Rich in Oil and Gas: The continental shelf beneath the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal is like a treasure chest. It holds a lot of mineral oil (which is used for making energy) and natural gas (another important energy source).
- Special Ocean Rocks: The seabed here also has something really unique – high-quality nodules. These nodules are like special rocks, and they’re loaded with valuable stuff like manganese, phosphate, barium, aluminum, silicon, iron, titanium, sodium, potassium, chromium, monazite, ilmenite, magnetite, and garnet.
So, beneath the waves of the Indian Ocean, there’s a whole world of minerals waiting to be discovered and put to good use. It’s like a hidden treasure just waiting for us to find!
Mineral Belts in India in a Nutshell
|Mineral Belt||Geographical Region||Key Minerals|
|1. North-Eastern Peninsular Belt||Chhota Nagpur Plateau – Odisha Plateau – States: Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha||Coal, iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, copper, kyanite, chromite, beryl, apatite, and more.|
|2. Central Belt||Parts of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra||Manganese, bauxite, limestone, marble, coal, gems (Panna diamonds), mica, iron ore, graphite, and more.|
|3. Southern Belt||Karnataka plateau, extending into Tamil Nadu upland||Ferrous minerals, bauxite; lacks coal, mica, and copper deposits.|
|4. South-Western Belt||Western Karnataka and Goa||Iron ore, garnet, clay.|
|5. North-Western Mineral Belt||Aravali range in Rajasthan and adjacent parts of Gujarat||Copper, lead, zinc, uranium, mica, stellite, beryllium, aquamarine, emerald, petroleum, gypsum, manganese, salt, bauxite, and more.|
|Other Scattered Mineral Reserves||– Assam, Himalayan region, offshore reserves in locations like Mumbai High and the Godavari basin||Petroleum, lignite, coal, bauxite, copper, slate, oil, natural gas, uranium, manganese, zinc, lead, and more.|
|Seabed Mineral Exploration||Advancements in technology have extended mineral exploration to the seabed, presenting opportunities for extracting oil, natural gas, uranium, manganese, copper, zinc, lead, and other valuable minerals from the ocean floor.|
Conclusion: The Wealth Beneath Our Feet
India’s mineral belts are not just geological formations; they are the building blocks of industries, economies, and progress. As we delve into these mineral-rich regions, we uncover the incredible wealth that lies beneath our feet, contributing to India’s past, present, and future. The journey into India’s geological treasures is a testament to nature’s bountiful gifts, waiting to be explored and harnessed for the nation’s growth and prosperity.