An Austrian company, Stork Handelsges mbH, is in talks with the Andhra Pradesh government to set up a titanium (beach sand mineral) based project in the coastal district of Srikakulam.
The firm has indicated investments to the tune of more than Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion) in the project provided the state government agrees to the proposal, according to official sources.
Stork's team, led by its director (technical sciences) Alexander Soskil has already held a preliminary meeting on the proposed project with chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and minister for major industries B Satyanarayana on March 24, 2005.
The company has now extended a formal invitation to YSR and Satyanarayana to visit its titanium production plants in Russia and assess its technical as well as investment capabilities.
The company's delegation is expected to visit Hyderabad on this April 26 to hold another round of discussions with the government officials on the proposed project.
"In the first two phases of the project, Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) is expected to be invested while another Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) would be spent on other related activities centred around titanium metal. This would be at a later stage," a senior government official said.
According to him, the company has asked the government for necessary permission to begin titanium extraction and related operations in Srikakulam. "Other requests in terms of governmental support are routine and therefore of no great financial implications," the official added.
Titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is used in the aviation industry, has a huge demand world over. India currently depends on imports for its titanium requirements.
Very few countries like Australia and South Africa are said to be having titanium extraction technology at present.
According to D Janardhan Rao, director of WSIL Mineral Sands India Limited, Andhra Pradesh stands second after Tamil Nadu in terms of rich titanium deposits in the country.
The other two states, which have these metal reserves in beach sand, though in lesser volumes, are Kerala and Orissa. It may be recalled that WSIL Mineral Sands was granted permission by the Centre to extract beach sand
minerals such as ilmenite and synthetic rutile across 124-sq kilometre area in Guntur and Prakasam districts.
"Titanium sponge has a lot of export potential and I am glad to hear about the Austrian firm's proposal to set up the project to tap the vast natural reserves of titanium in Andhra Pradesh," Rao said.
The mining department officials told Business Standard that the government of India's atomic minerals division has been engaged in evolving the profile of beach sand minerals in the state. The atomic minerals that come out as a by-product during the extraction of ilmenite and other beach sand minerals have to be handed over to the atomic minerals division, free of cost.
Satyanarayana confirmed that he would be visiting Stork's titanium sponge and titanium metal production plants in Russia.