With ever-increasing demand for metals from the expanding Indian economy, Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) has transformed itself from predominantly surface mining to a 100 percent underground operation in just four years. The company is the only fully integrated provider of zinc and lead in India. HZL Director of Operations Laxman Shekhawat talks to Solid Ground online about the company’s rapid expansion plans and the challenges it faces in achieving them.
What is the current state of the metals markets in India?
India is a growing economy and the government is spending big on infrastructure projects. Caps on foreign direct investment have been raised to 100 percent under the automatic route for exploration and mining of metal and non-metal ores. Mining for the metals needed to support the growth has great potential, and we at HZL are sitting on big opportunities to contribute to GDP growth. While worldwide demand is increasing in particular from China and South-East Asia, close to 85 percent of the zinc we produce is consumed within India, and that internal consumption demand is set to increase more rapidly than export demand.
How is HZL positioned to meet this demand?
Zinc consumption in the developing world is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.8 percent in the medium term. Looking at the overall zinc scenario and demand in the country, we are in a unique position to further expand to meet the nation’s requirement. We are looking to increase our lead and zinc production beyond current production by 30 percent in the coming two years, and more in the medium term. We have identified brownfield sites and greenfield projects in the pipeline, and we will participate in future auctions where we expect to be the most competitive
What are the biggest challenges to reach your ambitious targets?
The mining industry of India has been dominated by surface mining. The move towards underground operations is now inevitable, so we need to improve our underground mining technology and methods. This provides an opportunity for players to enter the market. In this part of the world it is hard to find skilled jumbo and loader operators, so our greatest challenge is to find the right people to train with these critical skills. Right now we are running an aggressive training programme at our own academy to train local youths with the skills we need. How quickly we can train our local people will be key to the success of our expansion.
Title: Director of operations, Hindustan Zinc Limited
Background: Bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur, India. Completed executive programme in business finance, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.
Hobbies: A keen interest in playing volleyball. Previously a national-level player of kho-kho, an ancient Indian tag sport.
How is Sandvik supporting you in this expansion?
The growth of HZL has in large part been enabled by the excellent support and equipment from Sandvik. We needed the latest mining technology and they delivered. The underground loaders, large low-profile underground trucks, intelligent production drills and face drills with longer feeds have been real game changers. Their active participation in the automation and digitalization of our Sindesar Khurd mine and setting of high maintenance standards have also been a great help.