Technologies for Agricultural Application of Glauconite- A Potash Mineral

Code No:TMS160Price:Rs2600/-Category:Foods & Agriculture: Inputs to the Soil



Summary  : Scope: Potash Fertilisers are the most widely used fertilisers. India’s entire requirement worth about Rs 1200 – 1500 crores is being imported and is a drain on foreign exchange. India has glauconite reserves of potash over 2000 million tonnes in states of U.P, M.P, Rajasthan and Gujarat.The average potash content is up to 6-8% in Glauconite. Beneficiation work has been done and technologies reported from RRL Bhopal, GSI and RRL Bhubneshwar. The technologies for use of glauconite as a fertiliser have been developed on the following two routes: Beneficiation / Concentration of the mineral to make it viable for use as fertiliser. Lab scale technology has been reported to be developed by RRL Bhopal and some work done by others. Second route is to process the glauconite with some additives to make easy availability of low concentration trapped potash. This technology route is reported to be less costly, but bulk quantities would be required for application. This appears to be a good option either for forestry application, for agricultural areas near to the site of Glauconite occurrence. Technologies for beneficiation of glauconite have also been developed and are available from England, France, Belgium, USA, Australia etc. It is proposed to do a detailed study and survey of technologies available for beneficiation of glauconite and also to convert it into easy release of trapped potash. The technologies would be evaluated on set criteria for the availability and Techno commercial viability. The likely agencies for follow-up action are Fertiliser Corporation of India, RRL Bhopal and fertiliser manufacturers. Focus: On available technologies. Assessment of the technologies. Plan for implementation with cost estimates. The proposal is worth considering, as it would lead to saving of foreign exchange and also utilisation of Indian mineral resource.

Year of Publication : 2001

Table Of Contents : Executive Summary: Importance of the topic, Scope and objective of the study, Methodology, Limitations, Findings and analysis, Market survey response, Recommendations and plan of action, Specific recommendation for the action plan, Impact, if the recommendation are implemented ; Introduction: Preamble, Justification for utilization of glauconite as a source of potash fertilizer in India, The report; Glauconite- A Potash Mineral: Introduction, Chemical composition of glauconite, Chemistry of glauconite, Structural and non-structural iron in glauconite, Properties of glauconite- (Physical properties of glauconite, Forms of occurrence of glauconite, Internal structure), Occurrence and origin of glauconite -( Formation of glauconite within organic skeletons, Origin from clay minerals, Origin from terrigenous ferromagnesian minerals, Primary precipitation, Chemical replacement, Change in charge of lattice / layers), Physcico-chemical limits of glauconite formation; World Scenario: Introduction, Deposits, Significance and importance of glauconite, Economical Importance and known uses of glauconite, R&D work on glauconite, Uses; Occurances and Distribution of Glaucinite in India: Introduction, The occurrences of glauconite sandstone in Son Valley (Bardi area, district sidh. M.P.), Majhgawon area, district Satna, M.P., the occurrences of glauconitic sandstone in Uttar Pradesh (Extent, grade and reserves, Mineralogical details of the glauconites of Vindhyan rocks of Karwi area, district banda, U.P., Glauconite occurrences in Mirzapur district, U.P.), Glauconite occurrences in Rajasthan (Vindhyan glauconite occurrences, Tertiary glauconite occurrences), Glauconite occurrences in Gujarat, Glauconite occurrences in Bhima Basin of Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh (Glauconite occurrences in Ladpur area, Gulberga district, Karnataka), Glauconite Occurrences in Himalayas (Glauconite occurrences in the south shillong plateau and Makir Hills);    Scenario of Technologies in Production and Usage of Glauconite in the World; Scenario of Technologies for Exploitation of Glauconite in India: Mining technology, Mineral processing and beneficiation technologies, Economic evalaution of mineral processing, Processing of glauconitic sandstone (Commination, Sizing, Concentration- Concentration by magnetic separation, Dry magnetic separation,  Advances in dry magnetic separation); Technological Options Available for Utilization of Glauconite as a Source of Potash in India: Introduction, Research and Development work for utilization of glauconite as a source of potash fertilizer in India (Geological Survey of India, C.S.M.C.R.I. Bhavnagar, Gujarat, Project Development, Sindri, Regional Research Laboratory, Bhopal), R&D work on direct application of glauconite sandstone as potash fertilizer (Department of Agronomy B.H.U., Varanasi, Bindhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidhyalaya, Regional station, Nadia, West Bengal, Gujarat Agricultural University, Navasi, Gujarat), Slow acting potash fertilizer – glauconite; Recommended Process Technology & Plan of Action for Utilizing Glauconite as Potash Fertilizer alongwith its Techno-economics: Mining, Beneficiation, Resources, Technological plan of action, Techno-economics, Recommendations and plan of action, Specific recommendations for the action plan, Expected impacts, if recommendations are implanted; References; Abbreviations; Glossary.


Importance of the Topic

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Potassium is one of the three essential elements viz., N,P,K, for the growth of the plants. Importance and significance of potash in agriculture as well as for human and animal health is well established. For attaining and maintaining the self-sufficiency in food grain production, potash fertilizers has played important role in Indian agriculture. Inspite of the fact that a total conditional resource of potash of the order of 20398 million tonne from various sources (evaporate deposit, brines, glauconite etc.) exist (Ref.09a,b), but there is practically no production of potash in the country. In the absence of any economically viable potash deposit, which could be mined at present or in near future, the country is dependent on imports to meet its annual requirement of about 2.0 million tonne of potash (Annexure-III). In order to reduce the dependence on imported potash, glauconite – a potash mineral, has been identified as an indigenous alternative source of potash on the following considerations.

  • Import of potash fertilizer annually costs about Rs.1000/- crores in foreign exchange, and additional burden of Rs.300/- crores towards Govt. subsidy to the agricultural sector for potash fertilizers.
  • In order to maintain the self-sufficiency in production of food grains, the present demand of 2.0 million tonne of potash of potash is expected to increase to 2.4 million tonne, 2.9 million tonne and 3.6 million tonne in 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2009-10 respectively (Annexure –III).
  • The absence of techno-economically viable technology to mine the only known marine potash deposit in Nagaur-Ganganagar basin, Rajasthan at 600-750m. depths.
  • Large indigenous resource (over 3000 million tonne) of glauconitic sandstone, an alternative source of potash, has been identified in the country. About 10% i.e 300 million tonne containing more than 6% K2O occur very near to the surface with little or no overburden. It compares well in quality with the Greensand (glauconitic sand) of New Jersy and Verginia. Similar greensands are also predominantly available in England, America, Australia etc. The Greensands were successfully used as slow acting potash fertilizer by direct application to agricultural fields during the period of world war -–I, when there was a short supply of highly soluble marine potash minerals from Germany, the major source of supply at that time.
  • Agronomical field tests conducted with glauconitic sand of Uttar Pradesh by Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidhalaya, Nadia, West Bengal and Banaras Hindu University (Agronomy Department), U. P. have shown encouraging results, on directly applying flauconitic sand as potash fertilizer to the crops of wheat and paddy.

Scope and Objective of the Study :

The scope and objective of the study as given by TIFAC is to address tot he following aspects in the context of the topic.

  • Relationship and the importance of the specific topic tot he broad area to which it belongs.
  • The current status of the technology in the world and in the country, market (domestic and export) sizes and their potentials.
  • Assessment of the technology, resource parameters such as energy, raw material, infrastructure and manpower etc. to arrive at preferred technology options available to the country.
  • Short term and long term economic aspects of preferred options alongwith their feasibilities.
  • Impact of the preferred option (s) itself and its spin offs.
  • In addition to the above the study is to clearly bring out the following :
  • A review of glauconite deposits worldwide with their quality.
  • Indian occurrences with precise locations viz., depth, extent, estimated, proved recoverable resources and their quality etc. specially with particular reference to M.P. and U.P.
  • A review of technologies including patent applications world over with production figures and usage figures year-wise and country-wise.
  • A review of status of all the available technologies in India with the sources mentioning in details all the work carried out by the different R&D Institutes till date.
  • Estimates of cost of mining from each location and its forward linkages with potential users / takers.
  • Details of various agricultural field trials by different agencies (with locations, data and end results).
  • idenfication of gaps in Indian technologies compared with other countries.
  • Plan of action for follow-up in terms of development of technology and its uses with cost estimates.
  • Implementation of recommendations :
    For implementation of recommendations the various critical inputs (such as raw materials, capital goods, machinery and human resources) required and their availability, investments required to commercialize etc. to be qualified and techno-economic benefits to be evaluated in terms of existing and new suggested ones, keeping in view its relevance to India with a view of its adoptions considering the scope of commercialization, competitive advantage, environmental aspectss etc.

Methodology :

The techno-market survey has been conducted through extensive literature survey on the subject related to the occurrences, reserves, distribution of glauconite and its quality, so as to review the worldwide deposits of glauconite. Indian occurrences with special references to M.P. and U.P.A. review of technologies including patent applications. A review of the status of available R&D work on technologies for utilization of glauconite as a source of potash fertilizer. An over all present technological status of mining (i.e. production) & processing of the material. Present consumption of potash, its sources and availability scenario, projected demand & supply position is assessed. The potential market for consumption of glauconite as a source of potash is evaluated in relevance to India with a view to its adoptions considering various aspects including environmental impact, available resources, technology, human resource, machinery etc. On going R&D work and field experimentation for direct utilization of glauconite as a potash fertilizer are also reviewed.

The desk work was followed by

  • Mail survey through structured and open ended questionnaires (Annexure-A). Efforts were made to get back replies through reminders and even personal contacts, wherever possible.
  • The questionnaires covered all relevant segments viz., mining, processing, marketing, and consuming agencies of potash in Gov. sectors, Research marketing, and consuming agencies of potash in Govt. sectors, Research Institutes, Agricultural Universities and other related organizations in India. A number of foreign agencies were also contacted, besides, companies manufacturing instruments and equipment for mining and mineral processing were also contacted. Annexure –B & C contain the list of agencies contacted.
  • Personal interviews and discussion were held with several persons to collect further information and clarifications.
  • Discussion with the experts in various fields of potash were held and obtained literature on request.
  • On the basis of discussions and interviews, organizations competent as well as willing to participate and take follow up action have been identified.
  • Compilation, analyses and synthesis of data was carried out to draw the meaningful conclusions.

The draft report is prepared taking in account the comments and suggestions received from TIFAC on interim reporting.

Limitations :

Due to easy availability of highly soluble marine potash salts (with K2O concentration varying upto 63%) in many countries as well as in the international market, no serious efforts have been made anywhere else in the world, except in India, it make use of glauconite as potash fertilizer. Mainly, because it contains only a meagre 4 to 8% K2O., and for this reason, at present, nowhere in the world glauconite is being used as a source of potash fertilizer. Thus, during the survey scanty availability of data was experienced particularly on information related to grade and reserves of glauconite in foreign countries, technology and economics for utilization of glauconite as a potash fertilizer. The subject matter is of specific interest and importance of India as hundred percent of it’s requirements are met only by imports. The process of extraction of potash from glauconite developed by R.R.L., Bhopal has been applied for grant of patent. Information on work done by other agencies in India has also been obtained during personal meetings, persuations and consultations of proceedings etc. of a number of agencies including Govt. departments and Research Institutes.

The information of world scenario and evaluation, therefof, is primarily based upon published literature and the postal survey.

The detailed information on commercial aspects of the technologies would be made available by the technology suppliers only to potential clients and that too on commercial terms.

Findings and Analysis :

In world scenario glauconite mineral had earlier been used as a source of potash. The glauconitic sand was used directly as well as after getting it concentrated in its glauconitic content, as slow acting potash fertilizer in many countries upto pre-world war-II period. However, at present, it has lost its significance in the world, due to easy availability of highly soluble and concentrated marine potash minerals. However, in Indian context in the present techno-economic scenario. It is gaining importance due to non-availability of any commercially exploitable marine potash deposit in the country. Availability of huge resource of glauconitic sandstone deposits occurring at or near to the surface, adds to the advantage of its already established utility, as a slow acting potash fertilizer at many places in the world in past. The efficiency of the naturally occurring glauconitic sandstone could be further improved, by indigenously available techniques of beneficiation to get its concentrate for direct use as potash fertilizer or by developing its various suitable compounds and combinations. Field experiments by Agricultural Universities on direct application of glauconitic sandstone as potash fertilizer for wheat and paddy crops have shown encouraging results in U.P. and West Bengal.

Glauconitic sandstone could effectively be applied directly as slow acting potash fertilizer in acidic soils in the country. Its application in the fields is found to be economical as well as eco-friendly, as there are no leaching loses of nutrients from this mineral. Pre-concentrated glauconitic sandstone containing 4 to 6% K2O, could directly be used as slow acting potash fertilizer in agricultural fields located in close vicinity of deposits of glauconite in M.P., U.P., Rajasthan, Karnataka, A.P. state etc. It may not cost more than Rs.50 per tonne with 4 to 6 % K2O as gainst the imported muriate of potash (MOP with 60% K2O) and sulphate of potash SOP 45 to 50% K2O) available @Rs.3500/- to Rs.4,000/- per tonne. This implies that equivalent quantity of K2O from glauconite source will be available in Rs.600 to 7000 per tonne i.e. six to seven times cheaper than imported potash. Further, loses due to drainage, leaching and percolation of potash from glauconite are negligible as compared to imported marine potash salts. Hence use of glauconite will, further, be more economical than imported potash fertilizers. Moreover, glauconite also contains some other nutrients for plants in small quantities. Use of glauconite as potash fertilizer will prove to be eco-friendly, as the residual material, after release of potash and other nutrients from glauconitic sand, is porous silica along with associated clay minerals, grains of quartz, feldspar and calcite. This residual material easily gets homogenized with the soil. R&D work for commercial extraction of potash from glauconite is underway at RRL Bhopal.

Market Survey Response :

The response to market survey, particularly, from the consumer sector i.e. mainly farmers and fertilizer dealers was quite encouraging. However, it was moderate from Institutes, organizations and universities. Response was improved through reminders & personal visit.

Recommendations and Plan of Action :

Considering the already established use of glauconitic sand (green sand) as potash fertilizer during and pre-world War-II period in Australia, America, England etc. and the encouraging results of its direct application obtained in U.P. and West Bengal by Indian Agricultural Universities, following recommendations are made:-

  • In the acidic soils of U.P., M.P., Rajasthan, Karnataka & A. P. located in the vicinity of the area of occurrences of glauconitic sandstone, direct application of glaucontic sandstone should be started immediately.
  • Initially, the glauconitic sandstone could be used in combination with other fertilizers and compost manure, of course no chemical fertilizer as a primary source of potash be used so that the performance of glauconitic sanstone may be widely established in the Indian agricultural fields. It can be established in about 5 years if concerted efforts are put in.
  • Small scale manual quarrying of glauconitic sandstone should gradually be mechanized with advanced mining techniques to enhance the producitivity and economics.
  • In the meantime willing agricultural universities / organization like Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidhalaya, Nadia, West bengal; Jorhat Agricultural University, Assam; Department of Agronomy, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and other Research Organizations like RRL, Bhopal; CSMCRI, Bhavanagar; IBM, Nagpur; NML, Jamshedpur etc. may take up R&D and field test works on glauconite. Agricultural Universities and Institutes may establish its field applicability to various agricultural crops in different cropping systems in different parts of the country. Its applicability in Horticulture and Forestry should also be established. RRL, Bhopal and CSMCRI, Bhavanagar may carry out work on extraction of potash from glauconite. While IMB, Nagpur and NML, Jamshedpur may develop and establish some economical and easy beneficiation techniwue. Simultaneously economical methods for production of amorphous glauconitic potash fertilizer may also be developed.

It is recommended that Isodynamic magnetic separation / or other suitable magnetic separation techniques may be found to be most suitable and economic method of separating and concentrating ferromagnesian glauconite mineral from the associated gangue minerals comprising quartz, feldspar, calcite and clays. No water washing should be resorted to at any time during its beneficiation, else a water washing should be resorted to at any time during its beneficiation, else a part of soluble potash will be lost. Further, pyro-metallurgical processes may also not be economically viable, for glauconite being low cost bulky material as it contains low K2O%, however, it needs to be established at pilot plant scale.

The efficiency of extraction of potash from glauconite, however, could be increased by developing and actually testing in field following various suitable compositions or compounds:

  • Glauco-composts : While preparing compost some quantity of concentrated glauconite mineral is thoroughly mixed.
  • Phospho-glauco-compost : While preparing compost some quantity of concentrated glauconite mineral along with reactive phosphate is thoroughly mixed.
  • Sulpho-phospho-glauco-compost : While preparing compost some quantity of concentrated glauconite mineral along with reactive phosphate and pyrite in proper proportions are thoroughly mixed. Pyrite is added to provide in proper proportions are thoroughly mixed. Pyrite is added to provide essential acidic media along with sulphur nutrient values.
  • Bio-compost compositions : By addition of suitable leaching microbe in the above combinations, efficiency of releasing nutrients from the minerals could be enhanced.
Amorphous glauconitic compound by a calcination of glauconite with limestone powder at 2000C

Specific Recommendations for the action plan :

  • In the 1st phase while establishing suitable technique to enhance the efficiency of direct application of indigenous glauconitic sand directly as potash fertilizer in the Indian field conditions and commercially establishing the magnetic separation technique for beneficiation the glauconite from glauconitic sandstone, the commercial aspects of using glauconitic sandstone should also be established.
  • IN the subsequent phases, of course, on achieving desired encouraging results in conformity with the so far established views, mechanization of mining and processing techniques could be adopted and usage of glauconite should be popularized and expanded in other parts of the country. This will effectively provide alternative to the imported potash fertilizer to a great extent.
  • Sincere efforts during 1st phase could be ensured by perfect co-ordination between the state Department of mines and Geology (for supply of desirted quantity of required glauconitic sandstone) and the field experimenting agricultural Institute / organization / University engaged in:
  • conducting field experiments on direct application of glauconite as potash fertilizer to various agricultural & horticultural crops and also in forestry.
  • Developing various suitable compositions for compounds to enhace the efficiency of glauconite as a source of potash fertilizer.
  • R&D organization engaged in developing most appropriate beneficiation technique of glauconite from glauconitic sandstone.
  • R&D organization engaged in extraction of potash from glauconite.

Above all, sufficient & justified financial support to these agencies be ensured to achieve the desired results within scheduled time frame. Man power, infrastructure, required technology and machinery are easily available in the country to implement these recommendations.

Impact, if, the Recommendations are Implemented :

  • The mineral glauconite will provide an effective and economic alternative indigenous source of potash fertilizer to the Indian agricultural sector.
  • The import of potash fertilizer will be reduce and thus will help in saving foreign exchange to the extent of 50% of present expenditure of Rs.1300 crore (Import and subsidy).
  • Indigenous natural resource of glauconite in the country will be utilized. This would be the first introduction of the mineral glaucconite to the Indian market for its agricultural use.
  • Indigenous potash industry will be developed.
  • It will provide a boost to search and carry out R&D work on other similar potash resources like leucite, muscovite, K-feldspar etc.
  • It will help in generation of employment and socio-economic development of the rural sector of the country.