New Delhi: India is undertaking exploration of rare earth element (REE) monazite, an essential source of nuclear fuel, and has already set up a plant in Odisha for processing the mineral, the Parliament was informed today.
Monazite is an atomic mineral and contains thorium an essential nuclear fuel.
Minister of state for Steel and Mines Vishnu Deo Sai in a written reply to Lok Sabha said, “Exploration and exploitation of rare earth elements are being undertaken. Monazite is a mineral of Thorium and REE and the only commercial source of REE in the country.”
He added, “Recently, Indian Rare Earth Ltd (IREL) has set up a plant at Orissa Sand Complex to process 10,000 tonnes of Monazite per annum.”
IREL processes monazite to produce rare earth compounds.
The company, under the Department of Atomic Energy, has also set up a facility at its Rare Earth Division in Kerala to produce separated high purity rare earth utilising mixed rare earth chloride produced in the Odisha plant.
India has the highest monazite reserve in the world with 11.39 million tonnes but stopped production since 2004 after cheap monazite became available from China.
The minister said Geological Survey of India is also carrying out exploration in different parts of the country for other sources of REE.