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Himalayas formed as a result of continent-continent convergence are a source of significant mineral resources.
The mapping of the mineral resources in Himalayas can be done as:
- The higher Himalayan zone mark the axis of orogenic uplift and comprises mica schists, quartzites, paragneiss and leucogranites.
- The Kashmir Himalayas:
- a. Lithium rich bauxite reserves have been found in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. The estimated 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserve are expected to cut down India’s import dependency for lithium.
- Nickel, lead, zircon, copper deposits are found in the Baltistan region.
- Iron ore deposits are found in the valley of Kashmir.
- Small quantities of anthracite coal are found in Jammu and Kashmir.
- High quality sapphires are found in the Zanskar range.
- Himachal Pradesh is endowed with important mineral resources like rock salt, limestone, gypsum, silica-sand and baryte.
- Punjab and Kumaon Himalayas have rich deposits of metallic minerals like Bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore and manganese ore. Sulphide ore deposits are found in Askot village of Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand.
- Nepal Himalayas contains rich deposits of copper, iron, tantalum, niobium, molybdenum, and rare earth elements. The alluvial plains of Nepal contain rich placer gold deposits. Bhutan Himalayas is rich in limestone, dolomite, gypsum, coal, marble, quartzite, and talc.
- Eastern Himalayas:
- Sikkim Himalayas have natural resources of copper, coal, limestone, graphite, iron, and garnet.
- Carbonaceous shales of Oligocene age occur in Arunachal Pradesh. These are shelf deposits formed during the closure of the Tethyan Sea. The oil-rich shales co-exist with rich coal deposits.
E.g., Namchik Namphuk coal fields.
- Coal deposits are also found in Borjan region of Nagaland.
- Myanmar is rich is petroleum and natural gas resources.
The realisation of these mineral resources is beset with challenges, as can be seen from:
- Negative externalities with Lithium mining in Jammu and Kashmir:
- Himalayan regions are seismically active zone. Mining activities at a large scale can result in triggering of earthquakes.
- Lithium mining may exacerbate the water scarcity.
E.g., approximately 500,000 gallons of water yields one tonne of lithium.
- Associated high carbon emissions may amplify impacts climate change.
E.g., extreme weather events like cloud bursts etc.
- Due to mining activities in Himalayas large quantities of water can seep into the mines, which will make the region more prone to landslides.
- Mining activities may ingress into the already limited space available for agricultural activities, which may distort the nutritional indicators/food-security in the region.
- Regions of Himalayas form the part of hotspot of biodiversity. Mining activities in a large scale will be detrimental for endemic species of flora and fauna.
E.g., snow leopards, hoolock gibbon etc.
- Mining activities may also result in pollution of the pristine river system of Himalayas.
E.g., in Chile, pumping of lithium containing water have damaged ponds and wetlands.
Even though Himalayas are rich in mineral resources, their extraction should be premised upon the plank of environmental sustainability.
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