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Developing country Nepal is poor in minerals but the lack of minerals has been compensated by immense hydroelectric power. The entire hydropower potential is 83,000 megawatt. Nearly a handful of percent of the total potential has been produced so far. Some hydroelectric projects are in operation viz – Kaligandaki hydropower, Kulekhani, Marshyandi and so on. where as some big projects are under construction.
An Overviews of Mining, Mines and Minerals in Nepal. Except few metallic and non metallic deposits i.e., lead and zinc of Ganesh Himal; limestone for Hetauda cement, Himal cement and Udaipur cement plants, Magnesite of Kharidhunga, iron of Phulchowki and few slates and copper deposits at some places, no major deposit has been discovered so far. The reason behind is the lack of dedication for work among geologists. Further more systematic geological understanding of the processes of Nepal Himalaya has been lacking which includes interalia the following:
- Lack of different types of geological maps at different scales
- Lack of techniques and concept of exploration of minerals
- Lack of studies in mineral genesis
- Lack of concept for exploitation of scattered deposits
An Overview of Mining, Mines and Minerals in Nepal
Detail geological map of entire country is essential to understand the different geological features of the country. This will lay foundation for detail investigation of some parts of the belt in particular aspect such as geotechnical, geohydrological and mineral exploration investigation. Concentration map of different metal will lead to locate different mineral deposits.
Exploration techniques depend on conceptual as well as hardware aspects. Conceptual aspect depends upon the previous information, genesis and speculation. Statistical analysis of such information will lead to some target area. In the target area different available techniques of hardware will help locate the deposits.
Heavy concentrate sampling (Talalov 1972) indicates presence of 82 minerals including diamond found in Nepal.
In the mineral different physico-chemical properties were found in the species belonging to different generations such as in tourmaline, garnets, pyroxene, amphibole, apatite, baryte, disthene mica, rutile, zircon, monazite, chalcopyrite arsenopyrite, staurolite wollastonite etc.
Genesis of minerals and age of rocks are important to find out the similar mineral in other areas.
For the present Nepal has to be satisfied with the following minerals:
- Limited lead zinc deposit in Ganesh Himal area
- Large reserve of cement and other grades in Mahabharat belt
- Non metallic minerals such as magnesite talc and slates in the Midlands.
- Limited gas deposit in Kathmandu and vast groundwater resources in the Terai plain
- Some semi precious stone in some areas of Nepal (Chainpur and Mailung and Burhi Gandaki river)
According to Talalov, (1972) Nepal is the store house of some rare earth metals. But available information indicates that structural belts and granitic rocks are source of some minerals whereas certain sedimentary rocks may have primary or secondary deposits.
Theoretically it is possible to divide metallo-genetic provinces of the Himalaya on the basis of geological zonations of the Himalaya.
(i) A porphyry copper province with massive sulphide vein type deposits and possible cassiterite should be found in Tibetan plateau as a result of subduction of Tethys oceanic plate. (Lately a number of copper deposits in Tibet has been confirmed by Chinese geologist).
(ii) Chrome – Nickel province with copper mineralisation should exist in the Indus-Tsangpo Sutre Zone and copper in ophiolite belt of Pakistan.
(iii) Barite-fluorite province in high Himalayas particularly in Tibetan sediment.
(iv) Mica-beryl pegmatite province in crystalline of high Himalaya.
(v) Copper-lead-zinc province in the Lower Himalaya
(vi) Uranium province in the Siwaliks (Churia)
Talalov reported many base metals from the central Nepal and he considered the deposits are structurally controlled and are related to magmatic intrusions and are of skarn type.
Phulchowki and Ganesh Himal lead and zinc deposits are considered of syngenetic origin.
High grade haematite deposit is proved at Phulchowki and tungsten and cassiterite have been reported close to the Palung granite.
Talalov suggested that Nepal has a definite potential for tantaloniobates, rare earths, bismuth, tin, tungusten, gold, polymetallic deposits, cobalt and vanadium.
According to Talalov, the Lower Himalayas of Nepal has the greatest potential for discovering useful solid minerals.
Though history of mining in Nepal dates back to the first millennium of history (famous Chinese traveller Huen Tsang referred about copper and iron works in Nepal) the first work was the building of arm ammunition factory in 1921 on the basis of Toshay Ramechap iron ore for self reliance. Realising the importance of mineral and its exploration then Government established Department of Canal and Geology in 1928. In 1941 it was again splitted into Khani Adda and Irrigation Department. The Khani Adda was later named as Bureau of Mines in 1961 AD.
In 1967 Department of Geology was created which again amalgamated to Nepal Bureau of Mines in 1976 with present name of Department of Mines and Geology. Main achievement as mentioned in Department of Mines and Geology report “Present Status of Mineral Resources Development” in Nepal 1988 as follows:
- Department of Mines and Geology completed regional geological map of Nepal.
- Seismic survey has been carried out in Terai area and some of the blocks were leased for oil exploration.
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Author: Chandra K. Sharma