Natural resources of India

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Natural resources are utilisable materials derived from the environment. Resources are classified as either biotic or abiotic on the basis of their origin. The Indian landmass contains a multitude of both types of resource and its economy, especially in rural areas, is heavily dependent on their consumption or export. Due to overconsumption, such as uncontrolled logging or overfishing, many valuable natural resources are rapidly being depleted.


The total cultivable area in India is 1,269,219 km² (56.78% of its total land area), which is shrinking due to population pressures and rapid urbanisation. India has a total water surface area of 360,400 km²[1] and receives an average annual rainfall of 1,100 mm. Irrigation accounts for 92% of the water utilisation, comprising an area of 380 km² in 1974. It is expected to rise to 1,050 km² by 2025, with the balance accounted for by industrial and domestic consumers. India's inland water resources include rivers, canals, ponds and lakes, coupled with the east and west coasts of the Indian ocean and other gulfs and bays. These provide employment to nearly 6 million people in the fisheries sector. In 2008, India had the world's third largest fishing industry.[2]

India produces 4 fuels, 11 metallic, 52 non-metallic and 22 minor minerals.[3] India's major mineral resources include Coal (4th largest reserves in the world), Iron ore, Manganese ore (7th largest reserve in the world as in 2013),[4] Mica, Bauxite (5th largest reserve in the world as in 2013),[5] Chromite, Natural gas, Diamonds, Limestone and Thorium (world's largest along Tamil Nadus[6] shores). India's oil reserves, found in Bombay High off the coast of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and in eastern Assam meet 25% of the country's demand.[7][8]

A national level agency National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS) was established in 1983 for integrated natural resources management in the country. It is supported by Planning Commission (India) and Department of Space.[9]

Biotic resources[edit]

Biotic resources are obtained from the living and organic material. These include forest products, wildlife, crops and other living organisms. Most of these resources are renewable because they can regenerate themselves. Fossil fuels are considered as biotic because they are formed from decayed organic matter. Fossil fuels are non-renewable.[10]


Forest in Western ghats section, Karnataka

India's land area includes regions with high rainfall to dry deserts, Coast line to Alpine regions. Around 21 percent of the total geographical area consists of Forests. Due to variations in climatic conditions and differences in altitude, different types of Forest are present in India including Tropical, Swamps, Mangrove and Alpine. Variety of forest vegetation is large. Forests are the main source of Fire woods, Paper, Spices, Drugs, Herbs, Gums and more. Forests contribute significant amount to nation's GDP.[11]

Main article: Forestry in India


India has a long history in fishing and aquaculture. India has rich marine and inland water resources. It has an 8129 km long coastline. Inland fishery is carried out in Rivers, Reservoirs and Lakes. In Indian rivers more than 400 species of fish are found and many species are economically important. Shrimps, Sardines, Mackerels, Carangids, Croakers and other varieties are available. Major Fish species available are Carp, Catfish, Murrel and Weed fish.[12] India is one of the major marine fish producer. In 2012-2013, 9 Lakh tonnes of Marine products was exported.[13]

Main article: Fishing in India


Main article: Coal mining in India
Coal mine in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand state

Coal mining in India started in 1774 through East India Company in the Raniganj Coalfield along the Western bank of Damodar River in the Indian State of West Bengal . Growth of the Indian coal mining started when steam locomotives were introduced in 1853. Production increased to Million tonnes. Production reached 30 million tonnes in 1946. After Independence, National Coal Development Corporation was set up and colleries were owned by Railways. India consumes coal mainly for Power sector. Other industries like cement, fertilizer, chemical and paper rely coal for energy requirements.[14]


India had about 125 Million metric tonne of proven oil reserves as April 2010 or 5.62 billion barrels as per EIA estimate for 2009,[15] which is the second-largest amount in the Asia-Pacific region behind China.[16] Most of India's crude oil reserves are located in the western coast (Mumbai High) and in the northeastern parts of the country, although considerable undeveloped reserves are also located in the offshore Bay of Bengal and in the state of Rajasthan. The combination of rising oil consumption and fairly unwavering production levels leaves India highly dependent on imports to meet the consumption needs. In 2010, India produced an average of about 33.69 million metric tonne of crude oil as on April 2010[17] or 877 thousand barrels per day as per EIA estimate of 2009.[15] During 2006, India consumed an estimated 2.63 Mbbl/d (418,000 m3/d) of oil.[18] The EIA estimates that India registered oil demand growth of 100,000 bbl/d (16,000 m3/d) during 2006. As of 2013 India Produces 30% of India's resources mostly in rajasthan.[18]

India’s oil sector is dominated by state-owned enterprises, although the government has taken steps in past recent years to deregulate the hydrocarbons industry and support greater foreign involvement. India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation is the largest oil company. ONGC is the leading player in India’s upstream sector, accounting for roughly 75% of the country’s oil output during 2006, as per Indian government estimates.[16] As a net importer of all oil, the Indian Government has introduced policies aimed at growing domestic oil production and oil exploration activities. As part of the effort, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas crafted the New Exploration License Policy (NELP) in 2000, which permits foreign companies to hold 100% equity possession in oil and natural gas projects.[16] However, to date, only a handful of oil fields are controlled by foreign firms. India’s downstream sector is also dominated by state-owned entities, though private companies have enlarged their market share in past recent years.

Natural gas[edit]

Oil and Gas processing platform at Bombay High

As per the Ministry of petroleum, Government of India, India has 1,437 billion cubic metres (50.7×10^12 cu ft) of confirmed natural gas reserves as of April 2010. A huge mass of India’s natural gas production comes from the western offshore regions, particularly the Mumbai High complex. The onshore fields in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat states are also major producers of natural gas. As per EIA data, India produced 996 billion cubic feet (2.82×1010 m3) of natural gas in 2004.[19] India imports small amounts of natural gas. In 2004, India consumed about 1,089×10^9 cu ft (3.08×1010 m3) of natural gas, the first year in which the country showed net natural gas imports. During 2004, India imported 93×10^9 cu ft (2.6×109 m3) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar.[19]

As in the oil sector, India’s state-owned companies account for the bulk of natural gas production. ONGC and [Oil India] Ltd. (OIL) are the leading companies with respect to production volume, while some foreign companies take part in upstream developments in joint-ventures and production sharing contracts. [Reliance Industries], a privately owned Indian company, will also have a bigger role in the natural gas sector as a result of a large natural gas find in 2002 in the Krishna Godavari basin.[19] The [Gas Authority of India Ltd.|GAIL] holds an effective control on natural gas transmission and allocation activities. In December 2006, the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas issued a new policy that allows foreign investors, private domestic companies, and Government oil companies to hold up to 100% equity stakes in pipeline projects. While GAIL’s domination in natural gas transmission and allocation is not ensured by statute, it will continue to be the leading player in the sector because of its existing natural gas infrastructure.[19]

Abiotic resources[edit]

Abiotic resources are obtained from the non-living and non-organic material. Some of the resources like Water and Air are Renewable. Other resources like Minerals are Non-renewable and exhaustible because they cannot be regenerated.[10] Minerals can be categorized as Metallic, Non-Metallic and Minor minerals.

Metallic minerals[edit]

Metallic minerals are the minerals which contain one or more metallic elements. They occur in rare, naturally formed concentrations known as mineral deposits. Metallic minerals available from India are Zinc, Iron ore, Manganese ore, Gold, Bauxite, Silver, Lead, Tin, Copper and Chromite.[20]


1st Century B.C. Copper coin signifies usage of Copper in India since ancient times

Copper has been used since ancient times. Details of Copper mining and metallurgy are available in ancient works like Arthashastra. Copper is mainly used in Industrial applications, Electrical/Electronic equipments and Consumer products such as utensils. Major resources of Copper are available at Rajasthan, Madhya pradesh and Jharkhand. As on 2010, India had 1.56 billion tonnes of Copper ore.[21] India is one of the 20 major Copper producers. In 2008, India produced 7,10,000 tonnes of copper.[22] Hindustan Copper Limited, a public sector company is the only producer of primary refined copper. Post-pillar method and Blast hole stoping method are used for Mining. Some of the domestic demand is met through scrap recycling. In India, Copper scrap is recycled through Direct melting, which is a hazardous process.[21]


Zinc is a bluish-white, lustrous, diamagnetic metal. It is also a fair conductor of electricity. References to medicinal uses of zinc are present in the Charaka Samhita. Ancient Zinc smelting technique was found at a zinc production site in Zawar, Rajasthan. Zinc is recovered from a number of different zinc ores. The types of zinc ores include sulfide, carbonate, silicate and oxide.[23] It is used in corrosive resistant coating for Iron and Steel. Also used in Automotive, Electrical and Machinery industries. India is the World's fourth largest Zinc reserve as in 2013.[24] Hindustan Zinc Limited is the main producer of Zinc in India. Most of the resources are available in Rajasthan. Minor amount of resources are available in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra states.[23]

Iron ore[edit]

India is the World's third biggest exporter of Iron ore as in 2013.[5] As on 2010, India had 27 billion tonnes or resource (including Hematite and Magnetite). Major amount of Hematite is found in Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Goa. Minor amount of Hematite is found in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Major amount of Magnetite is found in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Minor amount of Magnetite is found in Assam, Bihar, Goa, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Mining is done by opencast method. Iron ore is mainly used for manufacturing of Pig iron, Sponge iron and Steel. It is also used in coal washeries, cement and glass industries.[25] The public sector companies like National Mineral Development Corporation and Steel Authority of India contribute to 25% of the total production. Private companies including Tata Steel provides major contribution.[26]


It is an oxide of Chromium and Iron. It is the only commercial source of Chromium. As on 2010, India had 200 million tonnes of resource. Major amount of resources are available from Orissa (Cuttack and Jajpur districts). Minor amount of resources are available from Manipur, Nagaland, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.[27] In 2009-2010, India produced 3.41 million tonnes and ranked second in world production.[28] It is mostly mined by opencast method. Chromium provides additional strength to the alloys and it is resistant to corrosion. So it is mainly used in Metallurgical applications. It can withstand sudden temperature changes makes it use in Refractories. It is also used in Chemical applications.[27]

Non-metallic minerals[edit]

Non-metallic minerals are those which do not yield new products on melting. They are generally associated with sedimentary rocks. Non-Metallic minerals available from India are Phosphorite, Dolomite, Gypsum, Garnet, Wollastonite, Vermiculite, Ochre, Perlite, Bentonite, Asbestos, Cadmium, Felspar, Soapstone, Kaolin, Sillimanite, Limestone, Diatomite, Pyrophyllite, Fluorite, Vanadium, Dunite, Ilmenite, Gallium and Zircon[29]

Almandine (Garnet group) from Rajasthan

Garnet group[edit]

It is a group of complex silicate minerals and has similar chemical compositions. There are three groups of garnet - Aluminum-garnet group, Chromium-garnet group, and Iron-garnet group. The minerals in Aluminium-garnet group are Almandine, Grossularite, Pyrope, and Spessartine. The mineral in Iron-garnet group is Andradite. The mineral in Chromium-garnet group is Uvarovite. Garnet group minerals occur in different rock types.[30] It is a hard substance. It is resistant to chemical exposure. Used as an Semi-precious stone and also in Abrasives, Sand blasting, Water filtration materials and Water jet cutting. Garnets are available in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. It is also found in beach sands of Kerala, Orissa and Tamil Nadu states.[31] In 2007-08, India produced 8,73,000 tonnes.[32]


It is a meta-silicate of Calcium. It is mostly white in color and occurs as bladed or needle like crystals. As on 2010, India had 16 million tonnes of resource. Most of the deposits are available in Rajasthan (Dungarpur, Pali, Sirohi and Udaipur districts). Minor amount of deposits are found in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.[33] It is mainly used in Ceramic industries and Metallurgical applications. It is also used as a filler in Wall tiles, Paint, Rubber and Plastic. India is one of the largest reserves. In 2010, India produced 1,45,000 tons.[34] It is mined by opencast method. It is also used as a substitute for short-fibre asbestos in brake-linings. Central Building Research Institute has found that Wollastonite can be used as substitute for chrysotile asbestos in cement products.[33]

Sillimanite group[edit]

Sillimanite from Orissa

It is a group of metamorphic minerals - Sillimanite, Kyanite and Andalusite. These are polymorphs of Alumino-Silicate. These are formed under high-pressure and high-temperature conditions. The three minerals are calcined to form Mullite. Mainly used as refractory materials.[35] As on 2010, India had 66 million tonnes of Sillimanite, 100 million tonnes of Kyanite and 18 million tonnes of Andalusite as resource. Most of the resources are found in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Assam. Minor amount of resources are found in Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Granular Sillimanite is available in beach sands of South India. Sillimanite refractory bricks are used in Steel, Glass and Petrochemical industries.[36] In 2004, India produced 14,500 tonnes of Sillimanite and 6200 tonnes of Kyanite.[35]


It is a compound of Iron and Titanium. It will be iron-black or Steel-gray in color. It is non-toxic material and used in biomedical substances. Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology has developed an Environment friendly technology for processing Ilmenite.[37] It is also used in production of Titanium dioxide pigment. It is available in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Orissa. Mining is done at locations Chavara, Chatrapur, Aluva and Manavalakurichi by Indian Rare Earths limited.[38] As on 2013, India has 21% of the world's reserves and constitutes 6% of the world's production.[39]


It is a hydrous Alumino-silicate. It is chemically inert, has high melting point and low electrical conductivity. It is used in Refractories, Foundry dressings, Pesticides, Ceramics and Rubber. It is available as Hydrothermal deposits.[40] Physical and Optical properties of Pyrophyllite is similar to Talc. It is also used in Electrical insulators, Sanitary-ware and in Glass industry. As on 2010, India had 56 million tonnes of resource. Most of the resources are found in Madhya pradesh (Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh and Shivpuri districts). Remaining resources are found in Orissa, Uttar pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. In 2010, India produced 1.5 million tonnes.[41]

Minor minerals[edit]

Quartzite rocks in North Coastal Andhra Pradesh
White marble rocks in Madhya Pradesh

Minor minerals available are Building stone, Brick earth, Quartzite, Marble, Granite, Gravel, Clay and Sand. These are mainly used in Building constructions.[20] Impact of mining these minerals was significant over a period of time even the area was small. Impacts were Increasing water scarcity, Damage to River beds and adverse effects on bio-diversity. So from 2012 onwards, mining of these minerals are to be done after clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests (India). [42]


Marble is a metamorphosed limestone formed by re-crystallization. It is available in different colours and textures. Marble deposits are available in many states of India.[43] It is used in India for long time. It was used in construction of Temples, Tombs and Palaces. Now it is also used for flooring in homes and offices. It is preferred for flooring because of its durability and water resistance.[44] Marbles which are economically important are available in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. As on 2010, there was 1931 million tonnes of resource, including all grades of marble. Based on the chemical composition, types of Marble available are Calcite, Dolomitic, Siliceous Limestone, Serpentine and Travertine marbles. Other than construction, it is used in Paint and Agricultural lime.[43]

See also[edit]


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