The Madras High Court appointed Amicus Curiae to study the Beach Mineral Industry in Tamil Nadu has raised a red flag about Monazite. Those who were in the vortex of the cold war lived in this fear of atom bomb annihilating the world with the touch of a button. The word, Atom, was enough to give heebeegeebees. But then the cold war was diffused and the very same material that went into the making of the bomb was used to light up the lives of people by using uranium for producing electricity. A classic case of a sword being beaten up to become plowshares.
Today we live in much safer times. Never in history has humanity had such a peaceful life as we are living today. Mankind has realized that it’s important to co-exist and co-found new ways of handling the challenges of living a good life. But then we have the doomsday agents who look at the dark side of life and whip up frenzy and fear among the people. The fear of the day seems to be MONAZITE. So let’s try to unpack what MONAZITE is and how it can help our country by having a clear understanding of it.
One of the real juvenile understanding of Monazite is that it can be used to produce Nuclear weapons.
Thorium is not a mineral, its an element. It is produced by cracking of Monazite. The fact is India has an abundance of Monazite and Thorium but the sad reality is that there is no global demand for this element as on date. To top it all Monazite is an impurity and the exporters spend money removing it from the sand.
Apart from thorium monazite contains rare earth too and given its lack of demand cannot be exported. The annual requirement of thorium-oxide for the 300 MWe Indian Advance Heavy Water Reactor is about 5 tonnes. Large companies with vision hope that someday this element will have a demand and they go by the regulatory arbitrage, and store the monazite tailings in a secured environment