to mine new iron ore deposit
A local entrepreneur with experience in quartz mining and export
has formed a new company to exploit a major new iron ore deposit
found by university geologists in the island's southern region.
The new company, called Uva Magnetite, has been formed to carry
out more detailed exploration work with the aim of eventually mining
the iron ore (magnetite) and exporting it.
found on a hillock in Wellawaya, has a purity that exceeds 90 percent
and is estimated to be about 90 million tonnes in size. Peradeniya
University geologists who found the deposit believe it holds the
prospect of developing a new iron industry in the island. Uva Magnetite
is to embark on detailed geophysical surveys to get a better idea
of the extent and nature of the deposit "Drilling work is to
start very soon," said an official connected with the project.
"After the drilling, the investors will apply for a mining
is expected to use the open pit or cast mining technique. The initial
project cost for mining is expected to be around Rs 600 million.
The company is considering crushing the raw material and making
reasonably sized powder that can be exported. Uva Magnetite is considering
exporting the product in three or four years and believes there
is a good market for iron ore, particularly given what has been
described as China's 'insatiable' appetite for iron ore for its
rapidly growing steel industry.
is looking at transporting crushed iron ore by either road or rail
and shipping the bulk commodity through the ports of Galle or Trincomalee.
"We have to examine the economics of the operation since Galle
is not big enough to handle bulk carriers while Trincomalee has
security problems," the official said.
the company is also thinking of making steel as a long-term prospect
but added that a lot of power would be needed for smelting. Sri
Lanka's annual requirement of steel is in the region of 10,000 metric
tonnes. "If we want to meet local requirements we need to produce
about 15-20,000 MT of iron ore," said the official. "This
means a very low rate of mining is required to support only the
local steel industry."
To break into
the export market the company would have to "make a name for
itself," he added. Uva Magnetite is planning to improve infrastructure
facilities such as schools, hospitals and water supply schemes in
the vicinity of the deposit.
There would not be any need to relocate villagers as the nearest
village is about a kilometre away from the deposit. The iron ore
deposit was found by two scientists of the Peradeniya University,
Dr.Atula Senaratne and Dr. H.A. Dharmagunawardene, during a field
trip undertaken as part of the department's new exploration programme.
The iron ore
is in several bands sandwiched between ordinary rock on the surface
and can be exploited without too much difficulty by the open quarry
method. Deposits found previously were not economically feasible
to extract with the present techniques. Deposits like the one at
Panirendawa, south of Chilaw, on the northwest coast, is 30 metres
below ground while others are mixed with unwanted rocks.