By Chathuri Dissanayake
Minister Susil Premajayantha yesterday said that the Government is drawing up plans to introduce a mineral policy with the aim of discouraging the export of raw materials that can be developed into value added products within the country.
The Science, Technology and Research Minister said that, soon, proper regulations will be introduced to discourage exports, adding that minerals such as graphite, ilmenite, and rutile – three minerals currently exported in its raw form – will have to be developed with value addition before exporting, once the Mineral policy is introduced.
“At present we don’t have a national policy. The Ministry-appointed committee, together with the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) held the last stakeholder meeting recently. We will soon submit the policy to the Cabinet for approval. Once approved we will encourage investors both local and foreign to establish plants to develop the minerals that are at present exported as raw material,” Premajayantha told Daily FT.
Sri Lankan graphite is known to be of the best quality and, according to Central Bank statistics, in 2015 the country produced 4,212MT and exports totalled at 2,834 MT, earning the country Rs. 513 million. However, no value addition happens in the country and the mineral is exported as a raw material. The country produced 39,439MT of Ilmenite, another mineral exported in large scale in 2015. Total exports of the mineral earned Rs. 418 million in 2015. Sri Lanka also produced and exported 1,170MT of Rutile, earning Rs. 119 million in 2015.
“We are now conducting research to develop the ilmenite. We hope to complete the research soon, and once it is done, then we can discourage exporting of raw ilmenite,” Premajayantha explained.
“If we manage to develop graphite and not sell raw material we can add 15,000 times more value to the current export.”
According to the Minister, the Government plans to attract both local and foreign investors to the sector once the national policy has been introduced in the coming months. The Government hopes that the move will also pave the way for technology transfers and job creation, Premajayantha said.