a breakthrough research has found a method to extract nickel and cobalt from the waste ore that is left behind after chromium is extracted from the Sukhinda mines in Orissa. The process, discovered by the Central Scientific Research Laboratory's regional research lab in Bhubaneswar, will also render harmless the tonnes of laterite left over after chromium extraction.
Laterite deposits have posed a severe environmental problem with reports of chromium contaminating the groundwater. "We found 0.7 per cent nickel in the chromium overburden (waste ore deposits) and have found a cost-effective process to extract this metal," says R P Das, who has pioneered this project.
For every tonne of chromium extracted in the Sukhinda mines, there are seven tonnes of overburden. Over the years, about 70 million tonnes of overburden have been stockpiled in the Sukhinda area. Implementation of the new process will yield large quantities of nickel. To date almost 20,000 tonnes of nickel are used in the manufacture of stainless steel, and all of it is imported.