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For citation: Kaphle K.P., 2011, Minerals Resources of Nepal and their present status, available in www.ngs.org.np (website of Nepal Geological Society).
Krishna Prasad Kaphle,
Former Superintending Geologist, Department of Mines and Geology, Kathmandu, Nepal
1. GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Nepal lies in the central part of 2500km long Himalayan belt. Almost 83% of Nepalese territory is mountainous. It is an underdeveloped country with vast natural resources like Water, Minerals, Forest, varieties of Agricultural products and Medical herbs. For the economical development of the country exploitation and proper use of such valuable resources especially mineral resources is very important. The mountainous region and the geological environment there in is suitable for metallic, nonmetallic/ industrial and fuel mineral deposits as well as huge amount of construction materials and dimension/ decorative stones. Continues efforts are extremely necessary to find out more mineral deposits, timely exploitation of these known resources and make multiple uses of these mineral commodities for the benefit of the people.
Minerals are the nonrenewable natural resources. Sustainable development of such resources helps to strengthen the economy of the country. Mineral exploration activities were in peak during 1974 - 1980 when DMG and UN funded Mineral Exploration Development Project was in action. All these investigation/ exploration activities in the past were able to delineate quite a few prospective areas and also able to identify some economic and sub-economic mineral deposits in different parts of the country. Government of Nepal should give high priority to explore, evaluate and sustainable development of industrial minerals, high price metals, base metals, fuel minerals, precious and semi precious stones. It should also invite potential investors/ companies (national and International) to invest in mineral and mining sector and establish mineral based industries by giving some incentive in the beginning. Now many private investors are showing their interest and taken 451 exploration licenses for 21 minerals and 80 mining license for 12 mineral commodities (except river gravel and sand mines) from DMG. Few cement, marble and DBM/ talc, industries have been established but none of them are in regular production due to some disturbances. Only some limestone for cement, and very few coal, semi-precious stones, lead and zinc, talc, clay mines are in operation. Exploration of oil and natural gas by foreign companies, first by Shell Netherlands (now left) and later by Texana Resources Co. (USA) and CAIRN Energy PLC (UK) have taken some areas on lease but the work progress is not satisfactory. Mineral resources play vital role in industrial development and over all increase in the national GDP. Present contribution to national GDP from minerals and mine is about 0.5% and on the whole from Minerals mines and mineral based industries sector is just around 2.4 % which is not encouraging but could go above 10% or more if we can utilize existing mineral resources. Once mining activities start natural environment will be slightly damaged but it should be minimize by immediate rehabilitation of the mined area.
2. MINING HISTORY
A number of small scale historical iron, copper, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel mines and many slate, quartzite, dolomite and limestone quarries were in operation in many districts. Old working pits, audits, smelting places, scattered slag and remnant of mine materials are the solid proofs of such mining activities in the past. In many cases the name of the village is derived after the particular mines e.g. Taba Khani, Phalam Khani, Shisa Khani, Sun Khani etc. But at present almost none of these old workings/ mines are in operation due to various reasons. Therefore reassessment and evaluation of such deposits/ mines by DMG or any private sector are extremely warranted for further exploration and mining. One of the examples is Thoshe iron old working which was reassessed by DMG and later explored in detail by a private company and now it is in the process of mine development to exploit iron ore in near future.
3. MINERAL RESOURCES IN DIFFERENT GEOLOGICAL ZONES
Geology of Nepal is very complex because of continues geodynamic process in the Himalayan region and that resulted many thrusting, faulting, folding and metamorphic effects. Nepal Himalaya can be divided into five distinct morpho-geotectonic zones from south to north. From mineral resources point of view, the southernmost Terai Plain is potential for gravel, sand, ground water, petroleum and natural gas. The Sub Himalaya (Churia/ Siwalik foot hills) is the potential area for construction materials, radioactive minerals, petroleum, natural gas and minor amount of coal. Similarly, Lesser Himalaya (The Mahabharat Range including midlands) is promising for metallic minerals mainly Iron, copper, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel, tin, tungsten, molybdenum, gold, uranium rare metals etc.; industrial minerals like magnesite, phosphorite, limestone, dolomite, talc, clay, kaoline etc.; gemstones like tourmaline, aquamarine/ beryl, garnet, kyanite, etc; fuel minerals e.g. coal, lignite, methane gas, petroleum and natural gas, hot springs and radioactive minerals; and voluminous construction materials crushed gravel as well as river boulders, gravel; sand some of the areas in Higher Himalaya are highly promising for precious and semiprecious stones, marble and metallic minerals like lead, zinc, uranium, gold etc. Tibetan Tethys zone is prospective for limestone, gypsum, brine water (salt) and natural gas. However, because of rugged topography, difficult mountain terrain, complex geology, lack of infrastructures and financial constrain exploration and exploitation of these mineral resources in Nepal is still challenging.
4. MINERAL DEPOSITS, MINES AND THEIR PRESENT STATUS
Geological investigations and mineral exploration activities carried out mainly by DMG, UNDP/DMG/MEDP projects, GSI and very few private entrepreneurs were able to identify more than sixty six mineral commodities (metallic, nonmetallic/ industrial, gemstone, fuel mineral deposits/ prospects and construction materials/ minerals) in Nepal. DMG has provided 452 prospecting licenses for the exploration of 21 mineral commodities and 80 mining licenses for mining 12 mineral commodities in different parts of the country.
Similarly geological, aeromagnetic and seismic survey conducted by DMG/ Petroleum Exploration Promotion Project (PEPP) and foreign Oil Companies like Shell Netherlands were able to trace some promising sites for petroleum and natural gas in southern part of the country mainly in the Terai and Siwalik Foothills. Gas and oil seepages in Padukasthan, Sirsasthan etc. in Dailekh and gas seeps in Muktinath in Mustang are the indications of the existence of oil and natural gas in Nepal. Existance of oil in Potwar in Pakistan in the west and Aasam in India in the east is another indicator that there is also high possibility of similar oil pools in the similar geological environment/ lithological horizons in Nepal. On this basis ten prospective blocks for exploration of petroleum and natural gas are identified. Two of them have been leased by Texana Resources Co. (USA), and five blocks by CAIRN Energy PLC. (UK). Both the companies did some preliminary field works and lab tests/ works but still they are reluctant to conduct extensive exploration field works.
4.1 Metallic Minerals
Metallic minerals are very much used in various purposes in day to day life. They are mostly extracted from their respective ores. Gold, platinum, silver and copper also occur as native state. A numbers of metallic ore minerals are known from different parts of Nepal only the important ones are briefly described.
Iron (Fe) is the principal metal which is used extensively in infrastructure development works, to manufacture heavy machinery equipment, arms, agricultural tools etc. Iron ores like magnetite, hematite, limonite/goethite occurrences/ prospects/ deposits are known from more than 85 localities. Some of these ores were extensively mined and smelted in different parts of Nepal since more than 150 years till 1951 (2007BS) but not a single iron mine is in operation at present. The well known iron ore deposits are Phulchoki (Lalitpur), Thoshe (Ramechhap), Labdi Khola (Tanahun), Jirbang (Chitwan), Dhuwakot (Parbat), Purchaundi/ Lamunigad (Bitadi), Dahabagar, Kachali, and Ekghar/ Khanigaon (Bajhang). Iron prospects and old workings are also known from different parts of Baitadi, Bajhang, Jajarkot, Rolpa, Surkhet, Myagdi, Baglung, Parbat, Chitwan, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Taplejung etc. Phulchoki iron deposit still remained untransformed into commercialization due to its location in the environmentally sensitive area and shortage of power like electricity and unavailability of good quality coal in Nepal and few other reasons. Thoshe iron deposit was mined in small scale during Rana's time for almost 100 years. But it was totally closed after 2007BS. DMG (Kaphle & Khan 1995, 1996, 2006) did the assessment of this prospect and calculated geological reserve of about 10.5 million ton iron ore.
Copper (Cu) is another important metal which is mainly used in electrical industries to produce electrical and electronic equipments, copper wires, crafts, making alloys, utensils, and other household purposes. It was mined traditionally in Nepal since historic time but at present there is no running copper mine. The common copper ore found in Nepal are chalcopyrite, and few malachite, azurite, covellite, cuprite, bornite, and chalcocite. Copper ore occurrences/ prospects/ deposits are known from more than 107 localities in the country. Small scale copper mines were in operation in Gyazi (Gorkha), Okharbot (Myagdi) and Wapsa (Solukhumbu) till to the last decade and they were able 20 to 50mt finished copper per year. Other copper prospects/ deposits like Kalitar (Makwanpur), Dhusa (Dhadhing), Wapsa (Solukhumbu), Bamangaon (Dadeldhura), Khandeshori/ Marma (Darchula), Kurule (Udayapur), Bhut Khola (Tanahun), Pandav Khani (Baglung), Baise Khani (Myagdi), Chhirling Khola (Bhojpur) Janter Khani (Okhaldhunga) are the major ones. Old workings are also known from different parts of Darchula, Bajhang, Bajura, Parbat, Baglung, Myagdi, Gulmi, Tanahun, Gorkha, Makwanpur, Kavre, Ramechhap, Okhaldunga, Dhankuta, Solukhumbu, Ilam and Taplejung districts. Among them Siddhi Khani (Ilam), Mul Khani (Gulmi) Ningre (Myagdi) are the important ones. 42 exploration licenses for copper exploration have been issued by DMG (source DMG, FY2066/67).
Zinc (Zn) and Lead (Pb) occurrences/ prospects/ deposits are reported from more than 54 localities in different parts of Nepal. In most cases their ore minerals e.g. Sphalerite and Galena are associated like in Ganesh Himal area (Rasuwa), Phakuwa (Sankhuwasabha), Labang- Khairang (Makwanpur), Pangum (Solukhumbu), Salimar valley (Mugu/ Humla), Daha Gulzar (Darchula), Phulchoki (Lalitpur), Sisha Khani and Kandebas (Baglung), Dhuwakot (Parbat), Barghare (Makwanpur), Khola Khani (Taplejung) etc. Most of them are known as old workings. Among them only Ganesh Himal Zinc - Lead deposit (Lari and Suple) has been proved as an economic deposit and mine development work has been completed by Nepal Metal Company since long time before but there is no production as yet.
Cobalt (Co) prospects are not as common as iron, copper, lead and zinc in Nepal. Cobaltite, erythrite and absolite are the common ore of Cobalt. Few old workings for cobalt are known from Netadarling & Tamghas (Gulmi) and Samarbhamar (Arghakhanchi). They are also recorded from Lamadanda (Dhadhing), Nangre (Kavre), Bhorle (Ramechhap), Bauli Gad (Bajhang) etc. There is no cobalt mine at present.
Nickel (Ni) occurrences are reported from few polymetallic deposits like in Bamangaon (Dadeldhura), Bering Khola (Ilam), Bauligad (Bajhang), Khopre Khani (Sindhuli) and oldworkings from Nangre, Nigre and Bhorle (Kavre) area. The main ore of this metal is niccolite and pentlandite which are mainly associated with chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite and pyrite.
Gold (Au) is a precious metal which has a very good worldwide market. It is widely used in making coins, ornaments, jewelry, dental appliances, electroplating, metal coating and many other purposes. In Nepal alluvial/ placer gold are frequently wined by local dwellers (Botes) from the river gravel/ sediments deposited by the rivers like Mahakali, Chamliya, Jamari Gad, Seti, Karnali, Bheri, Rapti, Lungri Khola & Phagum Khola (Rolpa), Kaligandaki, Myagdi Khola, Modi, Madi, Marshyangdi, Trishuli, Budhigandaki, and Sunkoshi along their high and low flood plains as well as in their terraces. Primary gold occurrences are known from Lungri Khola area (Rolpa); Bangabagar, Gorang & Jamari gad (Baitadi); Bamangaon (Dadeldhura) but they are yet to be evaluated by detail exploration.
Silver (Ag) is generally associated with zinc-lead ore and in gold. In Nepal minor amount of silver is reported in the zinc + lead ore of Ganesh Himal (Rasuwa), Barghare (Makwanpur), and polymetal sulphide of Bering Khola (Ilam), cobalt ore in Netadarling (Arghakhanchi) and Samarbhamar (Gulmi).
Tin (Sn) mineralizations are normally reported in the vicinity of granitic rocks. Cassiterite is the main ore which is recorded mainly at Meddi and Ganera (Dadeldhura); and Mandu Khola area (Makwanpur). In-situ cassiterite mineralization and cassiterite rich floats are seen in Meddi Khola. But it does not appear as economic deposit.
Tungsten (W) is a very important element which is used in electric bulbs, making hard high speed cutting steels and tungsten cable, drilling bits, armory etc. The common ores of tungsten are Scheelite and Wolframite. In Nepal tungesten ores like scheelite occurrences are known from Bamangaon polymetal sulphide deposit and few other places in Dadeldhura and Makwanpur districts.
Minor occurrences of Molybdenum (Mo) are reported from Khari Khola (Solukhumbu), Bamangaon (Dadeldhura), Bauli Gad (Bajhang), Lungri Khola (Rolpa), Samarbhamar (Arghakhanchi) and Chau Khola (Makwanpur). Molybdenite is the chief ore mineral.
Ilmenite and Rutile contains Titanium (Ti). Minor amount of Chromium (Cr) and titanium (Ti) are detected from the Iron ore of Thoshe (Ramechhap) and Bauligad (Bajhang). Rutile grains are commonly recorded in the heavy concentrate samples from the major rivers of Nepal.
Uranium (U) and Thorium (Th) are the two known radioactive elements in Nepal. Radioactive minerals like autonite are recorded from Thumki, Jagat, Panchmane, Gagalphedi and Chunikhel in Shivapuri area in Kathmandu. Few other ores of uranium like uranitite, tyuamunite, carnotite and cofinite are known from Tinbhangale, Chandi Khola and Chiruwa Khola (Makwanpur); Buka Khola (Sindhuli); Mardar Khola and Panpa Khola (Chitwan); Jamari Gad, Bangabagar, Baggoth, Gorang (Baitadi); and traces in different section of Chamliya River (Darchula). Among them Gorang and Tinbhangale prospects appear interesting.
Bismuth (Bi) is reported from Bamangaon polymetal sulphide deposit in Dadeldhura; and Baraghare and Mandu Khola area in Makwanpur district. It is mainly used to make alloys with antimony, lead, tin and cadmium, in medicine and cosmetic items.
Cinnabar is the chief ore of Mercury (Hg). It is reported from Tirche Pani/ Taruka. Talalov (1972) reported cinnabar from the heavy concentrate sample from Khimti River and Zinc-lead ore from Pangu.
Lithium (Li) occurrences are known from the pegmatites of Hyakule and Phakuwa (Sankhuwasabha district). Petalite and Spodumene are the main ores of lithium. Lepidolite (mica) appears to be the source of lithium in Pegmatite.
Berilium (Be) can be extracted from beryl and aquamarine which are known from the pegmatites of Khaptad, and different parts of Manang, Kathmandu, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Phakuwa, Hyakule, Ilam and Taplejung districts.
Arsenopyrite and realgar is the main sources of Arsenic (As) which occur mainly in polymetal sulphide deposits e.g. in Bamangaon and Bering Khola. Occasionally arsenopyrite is also the pathfinder for gold mineralization.
In addition to above mentioned metals/ Metallic ore minerals, minor occurrences of Antimony (Sb) Tantalum (Ta), Niobium (Nb), Lanthenum (La), Celenium (Ce), Cadmium (Cd), Titanium (Ti), Venedium (V), and Mercury (Hg) are also reported from different parts mostly as associated minerals. Tentalum and Niobium are traced form in the pegmatites and Granites of the Lesser Himalaya. Chemical analysis of some of the muscovites from pegmatites of Phakuwa (Sankhuwasabha) has indicated up to 140ppm Ta.
All these information indicate that Nepal is potential for metallic minerals. But the exploration activities in the past have revealed that most of them are sub-economic to none economic deposits. Now the price of many metals has gone up significantly. Therefore, further detail investigations in the known areas, evaluation of specific deposits and exploration in the new geologically prospective areas may lead to find the potential economic deposits of metallic minerals.
4.2 Nonmetallc Minerals
A number of Nonmetallic minerals like magnesite, phosphorite, talc, limestone, dolomite, quartz, mica, clay, silica sand, gemstones, decorative and dimension stones, construction materials etc. are known from different parts of the country. Some of the important ones which are explored up to certain stages are briefly described.
4.2.1 Nonmetallic/ Industrial Minerals
Limestone: Over 1.298 billion metric tons of cement grade limestone deposits are already known from the Lesser Himalayan region only. Exploration of limestone by DMG, in the past was able to identify a number of large to small size limestone deposits. Based on some of the proved limestone deposits few cement industries are already in operation/ production, few others are under construction and quite a few others are in the pipelines. Present domestic cement production could fulfill about 40 - 50% of the total internal demand. 6 new cement industries named Sibom, Sonapur, Ghorahi, Rolpa, Bishal and Nigale cement industries Pvt. Ltd. are under construction and they will start cement production very soon. Therefore, establishment of more cement factories based on own limestone resources is rewarding. Some of the main limestone deposits are Sindhali & Galtar (Udaypur), Bhainse, Okhare and Nibuwatar (Makwanpur), Jogimara & Beldada (Dhadhing), Chovar, Bhattedanda (Llitpur), Balthali & Nandu (Kavre), Kakaru Khola (Sindhuli), Galtar (Udayapur), Kajeri (Salyan), Nigale (Dhankuta), Chaukune and Lakharpata (Surkhet), Gandari (Dang), Narapani and Supa Khola (Arghakhanchi), Diyarigad (Baitadi) and few other place in Lalitpur, Kavre, Khotag, Udayapur, Syangja, Palpa, Arghakhanchi, Dang, Pyuthan, Sallyan, Rolpa, Rukum, Bajhang, Baitadi and Darchula districts. Preliminary studies indicate that there is a possibility to find more than 2.5 billion tons of cement grade limestone deposits only in the Lesser Himalaya. 29 mining licenses and 196 prospecting licenses of limestone have been issued by DMG to private sectors
In many cases Dolomite and limestone occur together. From geological mapping it is known that over 5 billion tons (possible) of dolomite occur mainly in Dhankuta, Khotang, Udayapur, Sindhuli, Dolakha, Kavre, Kathmandu, Makwanpur, Dhadhing, Syangja, Palpa, Baglung, Gulmi, Arghakhanchi, Dang, Pyuthan, Sallyan, Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Surkhet, Dailekh, Jumla, Achham, Doti, Bajhang, Bajura, Baitadi and Darchula districts in the Lesser Himalayan and in some parts of Higher Himalayan region. Most of them are not yet explored in detail and still do not know their grade and quality to utilize as raw materials for industries.
Phosphorite is one of the main raw materials to manufacture chemical fertilizers like fused magnesium phosphate, triple super phosphate etc. Present annual demand of chemical fertilizer in Nepal is about 150,000mt/ year. Except one or two fertilizer blinding plant no fertilizer plant based in the local phosphatrite minerals exist in the country. Phosphorite (0.7 - 0 4.7m thick bed) is confined to massive cherty and stromatolitic dolomite of Pre-Cambrian to Lower Paleozoic age that occur in Dhik Gad, Junkuna, Morgaon, Sanagaon and Dhaubisaune areas in Baitadi, Far-western Nepal This phosphorite consists of 5–32 % P2O5. Similar (1 to 23m thick) stromatolitic phosphorite band is also traced at Tarugad, Juilgad, Goichan - Kandechaur area in Bajhang and further east to Bajura. Detrital phosphorite fragments (<1mm - 1.5cm) are recorded from Eocene argillaceous limestone lenses and beds in Sewar Khola (Dang) and Mari Khola (Pyuthan). P2O5 content in them is <5% to 10% (Kaphle & Pradhanang 1985). However, the phosphorite fragment itself revealed up to 25% P2O5. Exploration of phosphorite in the vicinity of MBT was able to trace few phosphatic rocks consisting of <5% P2O5. Only few phosphatic nodules/ lenses consist of up to 22% P2O5 in Takure, Barahakshetra, Tawa Khola (Kazitsyn, 1970); Gawar Khola, Sewar Khola in Midwestern Nepal and in Khulia Khola (Kaphle 1997) in Far-Western Nepal.
Magnesite: 180 million tons (66 million tons of high grade, MgO content 88 to 96% loss free basis) of magnesite deposit in Kharidhunga, Dolakha; 20 million tons of mediums to low-grade magnesite deposit in Kampughat in Udayapur district; and few small size magnesite occurrences from Palpa, Baitadi and Dolakha have been identified. Kharidhunga magnesite an open cast mine (Fig.2) has been developed to exploit magnesite as a raw material for Dead Burnt Magnesite (DBM) plant located in Lamosanghu. Some technical problems appeared during test production of DBM.
Talc: Occurrences of talc bands, lenses, veins and pockets are known in magnesite, dolomite and chloritic talc schist in different parts of Lalitpur, Dolakha, Sindhupalchok, Dhadhing, Chitwan, Tanahun, Kaski, Syangja, Surkhet, Bajhang, Bajura, Baitadi and Darchula districts. DMG has issued 25 prospecting and 6 mining license to the private sector. Khari Dhunga talc mine is in operation since more than 2 decade.
Mica: Several but comparatively small occurrences of mica (muscovite and biotite) books are known from different parts of Nepal. But mineable coarse size mica books are recorded only in complex pegmatite Langtang (Rasuwa), Bhumidanda and Kharanetar (Nuwakot), Chaukibhanjyang (Kathmandu), Nibuwagaon (Sindhupalchok), Lekhpatan, Fulbari and Tikachaur (Jajarkot), Khaptad (Bajhang), Baskot and Bhasukan (Doti), Fikal (Ilam), Chilingdin (Panchthar), Rangmale, Akabu/ Sainsabu, Dobal Pokhari, and Khanigaon (Taplejung), Phakuwa and Hyakule (Sankhuwasabha) etc..
Ceramic clay/ Red clay: Irregularly distributed scattered pockets of kaolin are known from Daman (Makwanpur), Panchmane (Kathmandu), Dalchhap and few other places.
Red clay from Panchkhal (Kavre), Lamosure (Hetaunda), Trijuga/ Beltar (Udayapur), Chidika (Arghakhanchi), Guttu (Surkhet) are used in cement factory. Clay from Thimi/ Bhaktpur is used in small-scale pottery industries. Huge amount of siltyclay deposits in different parts of Kathmandu valley is used to manufacture bricks. In villages it is also used in house wall painting. DMG has issued four prospecting and seven mining licenses.
Pyrite is mainly used to extract sulphur and manufacture sulphur compounds e.g. sulphuric acid, ferus sulphate etc. It is rarely used as iron ore where no other iron ore is available. Pyrite is abundantly found in Bering Khola (Ilam), Chhirling Khola (Bhojpur), Pandav Khani (Baglung), Meddi and Bamangaon (Dadeldhura), and many other places mainly in almost all polymetal sulphide deposits.
Silica Sand: About 11.9 million tons of sand suitable for glass industry has been proved in Karra Khola near Hetaunda in Makwanpur district. There is a possibility to find similar sand deposits in similar deposition environment (e.g. in Dudhaura Khola) in other parts of Nepal.
Barites are known from Khanidanada (Pyuthan), Barghare (Makwanpur), Dhokadhunge (Rolpa), Phakuwa (Sankhuwasabha), Urathi, (Baitadi). True picture of barite resource is still unknown.
Graphite is one of the significant mineral in metamorphic terrain in Lesser Himalayan regions. They are reported from Ilam, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Dadeldhura etc.
Calcite deposit as such in large size is not identified, however, minor calcite veins and lenses are recorded mainly in carbonate rocks. Calcites are known at few places as stalactite and stalagmite and dog tooh spar in some of the limestone cavities/ caverns. Small scale calcite mine is under development in Nibuwagaon. (Makwanpur).
Diatomite is reported from Chobhar, Thimi Bode and few other places in Kathmandu valley. Small scale mining of diatomite is in operation in Thimi and Bode of Bhaktapur district.
Salt: Brine water that occurs in Narsing Khola (Mustang), Chhiding Khola and Chharkabhot (Dolpa) are tapped and dried for common salt production. Brine water of these area contains 1.5 to 3% NaCl, where as incrustation contains of 72.8% NaCl and 24.5% KCl.
Semiprecious stones like tourmaline, aquamarine/ beryl, garnet, kyanite, amethyst, citrine, smoky quartz (quartz crystals); and precious stones like ruby, sapphire etc. are known only from few districts.
Tourmaline: Five distinct types of tourmaline are known from Nepal (Basset 1978). Gem quality distinct multihued tourmaline (elbaite) of Hyakule and Phakuwa; pink, bright green, light orange sometimes with repeated color banding, olive green with amber colored core are known from Hyakule, Eastern Nepal. Small-scale mines of aquamarine, beryl, tourmalines are in operation. Pegmatites of Langtang valley (Rasuwa) and Naje (Manang) are also promising for beryl/ aquamarine and tourmaline. Two tourmaline mines are in operation in Daha area in Jajarkot.
Beryl/ Aquamarine of Taplejung (Ikabu, Lodantar) area are high prized. Similarly hambergite, danburite, and ijolite are the important gemstones that are found in Nepal. In Taplejung beryl and aquamarine mines are in operation where as the tourmaline mines are still in development stage. Gem quality clear blue aquamarine of Phakuwa (Sakhuwasabha), aquamarine/ beryl and few green colored tourmalines from Naje and few other localities in Manang district (Tamrakar, 1990, and Einfalt et al, 1995), western Nepal are reported. Lekhpatan and Tikachaur in Jajarkot; Jagat, Panchmane, Kagtigaon, in Kathmandu; Baguwa, Tarkeghyang, Nibuwagaon in Sindhupalchok are the other known places for Beryl.
Garnets are recorded from strongly tectonized lenses and pods of chlorite-biotite-garnet schist within high-grade metamorphic rock sequence mainly in the Higher Himalayan region. Deep red or red colored almandine, hessonite and pyrope garnet are mined mainly in Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung districts. Small-scale garnet mines were in operation in Budhekhani, Bhote Khola, Hanglaung, Khining, Sunamla, and Swachi Khani in Sankhuwasabha district.
Kyanites are known mainly from Dolakha, Sankhuwasabha, Taplejung, Rasuwa, Dhadhing and Jajarkot Achham districts. Four small-scale kyanite mines are in operation in Daha and Suneri in Jajarkot and Barah of Aachham districts. Elongated tabular inky blue kyanite crystals are cut for gems.
Rubies and Sapphire: Gem quality but generally small crystal of light red to red ruby and light to dark blue colored sapphire are known from in Chumar, Ruyil (Dhadhing) and Lari/ Ganesh Himal (Rasuwa). They occur in highly tectonized intensely folded en-echelon lenses of sacchoroidal dolomite within the high-grade metamorphic rocks close to MCT.
Quartz Crystals (Rock Crystal): Two small-scale quartz crystals mines are in operation from pegmatites in Khejemi/ Sirku (Taplejung) and Raluka (Nuwakot). Quartz crystals are also known from different parts of Jajarkot, Dailekh, Dhadhing, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Sakhuwasabha, Ilam and Taplejung districts. Only colored verities e.g. mainly amethyst, citrine and smoky quartz are cut for gems.
4.2.3 Decorative and Dimension Stones
Marble: Pink, gray and white colored marble deposit (1.63 million ton) is located in Godavari, Lalitpur district. Based on this deposit Godavari marble industries (Pvt.) Ltd. is established. Its annual production capacity is about 80,000m2 polished marble slabs. It is producing about 50,000m2 to 70,000m2 polished marble slabs and some crazy marble, chips and aggregate as bi-products. Based on Anekot (Kavre) marble deposit Everest marble and allied industry is in operation. Recently Nawadurga Marble Industry Pvt. Ltd is developing marble quarry in Chhatre Deurali in Dhadhing.
Granites are known from, Makwanpur (Palung and Ipa), Sindhuli, Udaypur, Dadeldhura in the Lesser Himalaya. Course grained, massive granites are used as decorative and dimension stones. Granites are also known from the Higher Himalayan and Inner Himalayan (Tethys) region.
Quartzite is a hard metamorphic rock which consists of mainly quartz. It is abundantly known from many districts like Taplejung, Ilam, Panchthar, Solukhumbu, Dhankuta, Ramechhap, Sindhupalchok, Makwanpur, Dhadhing, Nuwakot, Tanahun, Kaski, Syangja, Parbat, Baglung, Beni, Dang, Sallyan, Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Achham, Doti, Bajhang, Bajura, Dadeldhura, Baitadi, Darchula and few other districts.
Slate is the common roofing and pavement material that is extensively mined from different parts of Dhankuta, Sindhupalchok, Ramechhap, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Dhadhing, Baglung, Parbat, Jajarkot, Achham, Doti, Dadeldhura, Baitadi, Bajhang, Bajura and many other districts since historic time.
4.2.4 Construction Minerals (Materials)
Rocks are the main construction materials since the Stone Age. Some of the rocks like marble, basalt, granite and red sandstones are used in decoration; phyllite, slates, flaggy quartzite and schist are used for roofing; limestone, dolomite, quartzite, sandstone are used for aggregate in various construction works, road paving and flooring. Vast quantities of river boulders, cobbles, pebbles and sands are mined as construction materials/ aggregates. DMG (Y.P. Sharma et al 1988) has evaluated such materials (Boulders = 347,006,000m3, Cobbles = 214,261,000m3 and Pebbles = 229,205,000m3) in the Major Rivers of Terai region.
4.2.5 Fuel Minerals
Coal: In Nepal low to medium grade coal occurrences/ deposits are known in four stratigraphic positions e.g. (i) Quaternary lignite (ii) Siwalik coal (iii) Eocene Coal and (iv) Gondwana coal. Peat/ lignite in Kathmandu valley is mined and used mainly in brick burning. Siwalik coal is not economically attractive because of scattered small lenses. Eocene Coal occurs as irregular seams confined to orthoquartzite in Tosh, Siuja, Azimara and Abidhara in Dang, Sallyan, Rolpa, Pyuthan and Palpa districts. Small scale 20 coal mines are in operation in these districts. In addition to that 49 prospecting license are also issued by DMG. Present Coal production in Nepal is insignificantly small (150 -250mt/ day).
Petroleum and Natural Gas: A number of Oil and Natural gas seeps are recoded in a stretch of about 14km in Padukasthan, Sirsethan and Navisthan area in Dailekh and only gas seeps in Muktinath in Mustang. GON/DMG/Petroleum Exploration Promotion Project (PEPP) are giving high priority to explore and promote petroleum exploration in Nepal since 1982. DMG/ PEPP were able to identify 10 prospective blocks in the southern parts of the country. Shell Company of Netherlands conducted exploration in Block no.10 in eastern Nepal. It has drilled a well up to 3520m deep but the hole appeared dry. Since last few years Texana Resources Company of USA and Cairn Energy PLC of UK have initiated the exploration works in Block no 3 & 5; and 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7 respectively. The possibility of finding oil in some of these blocks appears fairly high.
Prospective blocks for Petroleum and Natural Gas exploration in Nepal
Methane gas deposit in Kathmandu Valley is known since long time. It dissolves in water type biogenic gas. DMG explored this gas in 26 sq. km area in Kathmandu valley by exploration drilling of over 14 drill holes up to 570m depth and proved 310 million cubic meter methane gas deposit. The gas occurs at different depth from 120m to 300m. Its average calorific value is 7200kcal/m3. A model gas plant is set in Tripureshor/ Teku. Feasibility study has confirmed that the gas can be used for industrial and household purpose and the reserve is sufficient to supply gas to 21,000 families for about 30 years. The GON/ DMG is inviting for potential investor to come forward with the suitable proposal to develop the gas wells and commercialize this gas deposit for the benefit of the people.
Geothermal Hot Springs: During preliminary study 23 geothermal hot springs are identified. Most of them are found to be associated with Main Central Thrust (MCT) and confined to the river banks e.g. in Mahakali, Karnali, Tila, Kaligandaki, Myagdi Khola, Marshyangdi, Trishuli, Bhotekoshi Rivers, and in Kodari. The temperature of the hot spring water ranges from 40o to 115oC. It can be utilized for heating, drying fruits, hot water bath to heal skin disease.
Radioactive Minerals like uranium are known from Sindhuli, Makwanpur, Kathmandu and Baitadi districts. There is a high possibility to find such minerals in the granitic terrain (granite, gneiss and pegmatite) in the Higher and Lesser Himalayan region and from the Siwalik sandstone. Uranium is a major source of fuel for the production of Nuclear energy.
5. MINERALS, MINES AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION
All the mineral resources that occur in the country are owned by the state. DMG under the Ministry of Industry is the responsible government authority which is conducting systematic geological mapping and mineral exploration activities in the country since last five decades. In course of time DMG has been successful to identify a number of metallic, nonmetallic/ industrial and fuel mineral deposits/ prospects/ occurrences and prove some economic and sub-economic mineral deposits and also promote few mineral based industries like cement, agrilime, marble, talc, dead burnt magnesite, zinc-lead, coal, gemstones, pottery etc. Few small to medium scale mines of limestone, magnesite, marble, talc, coal, peat, clay, salt, talc, mica, quartz crystals, semiprecious and precious stones, dimension/ paving stones, roofing slates are in operation by the private entrepreneurs after obtaining the licenses from DMG. There are over 29 limestone quarries from which limestone are supplied to cement industries. Six gem mines are in operation and few gem industries, which do cutting and polishing of semiprecious and precious stones from Nepal and abroad are established. Construction aggregates, sand, gravel, dimension stone, decorative stones, paving stones and roofing slates are the other important mineral resources which have high demand for infrastructural development works. Metallic minerals like, iron, copper, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel, gold, are known from different parts of Nepal but they are not yet mined. Only Two placer gold mining license has been issued to private sector but till this time they did not show any production. A private Company did detail exploration of Thoshe iron deposit in Ramechhap and now in the process of obtaining mining license from DMG. It is envisaged that if the GON give high priority to exploit mineral resources with liberal policy, within next few years time some more industrial minerals, base metals, precious metals, gemstones, coal and petroleum deposits will be proved, a number of mines will be operated and more mineral based industries and petroleum industries will be established in Nepal.
Department of Mines and Geology administrates and fully exercises the Mines and Mineral Act (2042BS) and Regulation (2065BS). Under the existing Rules and Regulations DMG issue both Prospecting and Mining Licenses to the interested investors (national/ international) and regularly inspects and monitors the mining activities carried out by the private lease holders. In FY 2066/67 about 80 mines/ quarries (for 12 different mineral commodities) excluding the licenses issued by District Development Committees (DDC) are in operation. Similarly 451 prospecting licenses for prospection/ exploration of 21 mineral commodities are issued (DMG/ Planning section). In this FY 2066/67 DMG has collected around Rs2,00,00,000.00 as royalty/ revenue from this sector. From petroleum companies the government receives about Rs.2,55,60,000.00/year only from surface rental of lease area (7 blocks), taxes etc. Once the more mines come in operation, mineral industries are established and petroleum is discovered in the country many people will have job opportunity and all these will contribute substantially in national GDP.
6. INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY IN MINERAL AND MINING SECTORS
There are ample opportunities for the investors to invest in the commercially viable mineral commodities that deserve investment. Some of the proved economic mineral deposits have been developed and are being used in industries like cement, industrial lime, agriculture lime, dead burnt magnesite, talk (in paper, soap) and marble industries. Some small-scale industries are using local limestone, dolomite, quartz, talc, clay, coal, peat, precious and semiprecious stones, brine water (salt) etc. There is a high demand of construction materials such as aggregate, dimension stones, paving stones, slates, boulders, gravel and sand. Investment in these resources is highly rewarding.