Nagaland’s huge mineral wealth largely untapped

Morung Express News
Dimapur | July 28

The Department of Geology & Mining, Nagaland has set sight on attracting private investment to develop the mineral resources of the state. Making that happen requires focusing on mineral exploration and generating a “systematic” database, stated the Additional Director & HoD, Er Tsuknung Jamir, at the 42nd State Geological Programming Board meeting held on July 28 in Dimapur. 

The conclave had in attendance the state Minister for Geology & Mining, V Kashiho Sangtam and officials from various Central government and other state government agencies. 

According to Jamir, the “future outlook” of the department calls for liaising with “exploration agencies”, besides planning and formulating action plan for “mineral block auction.” The mineral wealth of the state includes coal, limestone, petroleum and natural gas, multi metal magnetite ore and minor minerals like marble, granite, spillite, besides other construction materials.  

As per the data presented today at the meeting, Mokokchung district is said to possess some 248 million tonnes of coal with around 93 square km still to be explored in the district. Approximately 240 square km awaits exploration in Wokha, Longleng, Mon and Tuensang. 

Kiphire’s Mimi-Pyakatsu and Salumi Blocks is said to possess an estimated 49 million tonnes of chemical and cement grade limestone. Other sites include Wazeho, Shatuza, Moke, Pokhungri, Mollen in Phek and two potential deposit sites in Noklak. 

Pokphur in Kiphire; Phor, Thewati and Reguri in Phek are where multi magnetite ore is said to occur. It said that preliminary exploration is required in Phor and Thewati, while the potential site in Reguri has no road connectivity. 

The petroleum bearing belt stretches from the west of Peren district and till Mon. While the deposit in Changpang (Wokha) is known, “other areas yet to be explored,” it said.

Given the mineral wealth of the state, which remains largely untapped, the Minister for Geology & Mining, V Kashiho Sangtam said that the Department with its expertise “will be able to generate systematic data on mineral resources and also formulate strategies.” He expressed confidence that the annual conclave would provide new insights for the Department.

He also drew attention to disasters resulting from anthropogenic pressure and depleting groundwater. “I hope that the department will work effectively in formulation of judicious policies as well as implementation in order to mitigate the impending disasters.”

Wazeho and Minor minerals 
It appears that the Nagaland State Mineral Development Corporation’s (NSMDC) Wazeho Cement Plant in Meluri, Phek, is struggling to find takers despite private investors displaying interest initially, only to back out. As informed today at the meeting, “(Wazeho) Mini cement Plant set up by NSMDC which is open for privatization.” 

On the contrary, in February 2021, the Nagaland Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Public Undertakings (COPU), 2020-21 recommended that the cement plant be operated by the state government.

With an original production capacity of 50 tonnes per day, the plant was operational from 1992 till 2003, before the state government increased the production capacity to 150 tonnes per day, as per the NSMDC website. The expansion was completed and subsequently inaugurated in June 2008 but has since remained an idle asset. The upgrade expenditure was over Rs 20cr.   

Queried on the royalty on minor minerals, Minister Sangtam replied that as decided by the state Cabinet in February 2022, the Geology & Mining Department is the licensing authority, while the job of royalty collection has gone to the Department of Forests. 

Additional Director Jamir said that it has impacted the Department’s revenue collection but did not provide figures.