A team of researchers from IIT- Ropar has found the rare metal tantalum, used in the manufacture of electronic and semi-conductor parts, at the Sutlej River in India’s Punjab state.
In an unexpected development, a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Ropar, who were working on an unrelated project at the Sutlej River in Punjab, got a shock after they discovered tantalum from the collected samples.
A hard, lustrous transition metal, Tantalum, is highly corrosion-resistant and is identified as “one of the 12 critical and strategic minerals” by the Union Minister of Mines.
The researchers, headed by Dr. Resmi Sebastian, assistant professor at the institute’s Civil Engineering Department, were reportedly studying the dynamic properties of soil and rocks and how these would have a bearing in case of an earthquake.
According to Dr. Sebastian, the discovery of tantalum traces could potentially benefit the state’s economy by promoting the mining of these valuable metals.
The IIT-Ropar researchers have prepared a proposal for the Punjab government for the collection of Sutlej River samples from at least 125 locations to identify rare components.
Although the actual source of tantalum in Sutlej is not clear yet, Dr. Sebastian said it could be due to the movement of tectonic plates in the Himalayan region that is likely to contain the rare metal.
Dr. Tiwari also suspects that the tantalum may be coming from China because 80 per cent of the catchment area of Sutlej is in China, in Tibet. However, a detailed investigation is required to ascertain the actual source of the tantalum in the river basin.