Manganese was discovered in the Sandur hills as early as in 1838. The reins of the mining business lay in the hands of a foreign company from 1907 till 1953. It was Y.R. Ghorpade, the former Maharaja of Sandur, who was awarded a mining lease over an area of 7500 ha., who founded the Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Limited (SMIORE). Rooted in the mining business, we own the largest manganese ore mines in India, in the private sector. Our operations are anchored in iron and manganese ores, but expansion plans include rapid downstream facilities to produce steel in phases. This will enable us to add value to the current business.
The first ferro alloy plant was set up in 1968. We made a foray into production of foundry grade pig iron production. Later in 1977, we diversified into production of Ferromanganese, Ferrosilicon, Silicomanganese and ferrochrome. In 1980, our metal and ferroalloy plant was recognized as one of the finest metallurgical plants of the country. Additionally, smelting facilities have always been the natural byproduct of the mining establishment. Italian and Norwegian superior equipment has been utilized for a long time to harvest Silicomanganese, Ferromanganese and Ferrosilicon. Apart from the ability to produce ferroalloy, the equipment and resources base ties in naturally with the production of steel and stainless steel – something that we are journeying towards.
Along with the existing facilities of manganese and iron ore mining and production of ferroalloy, we also have a 32 MW captive thermal coal based power plant. This gives us an edge to produce 220 mu of energy per year. This is channelized into two outlets; 160 mu for furnaces and 60 mu for sale. Besides generating income for the company, the internal usage is taken care of, offering continuous electricity and subsequently, no downtime at work.
In order to enrich its low-grade manganese ore, we have decided to direct efforts towards commissioning a pilot plant for upgrading to high-grade ore for ferroalloy smelting. Since the low-grade manganese ore is in abundance and incidental to mining higher grades, it has the potential to become an attractive commercial proposition. The beneficiation procedure would help in producing sintered Mn and Fe, and the magnetic fraction could be alternatively marketed for applications such as heavy media separation and anodized protection of marine pipelines. In the same way, the reserves of iron ore too, can go through a beneficiation process to upgrade its quality. The enriched output would be suitable for both sinter and pellet production. Using the current infrastructural facilities, with suitable adaptations and superior equipment, we could make a foray into new avenues of beneficiation.
We have two active solar power projects in the state; 4 kW Power System at Girls Hostel, Sandur Polytechnic, Yeshwantnagar and 7.5 kW Power System for street lighting of colony at Mining Camp, Deogiri. In order to extract maximum from this technical ability, we are striving towards production of solar photo-voltaic modules and assembly of power systems. This will enable us to use the power systems for street lighting, homes, community centers, schools and hostels, drinking water pump stations and agricultural irrigation pump sets. As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility programme, we will also employ this in powering up villages with sustained electricity in remote areas of mining buffer zones.
Reminiscent of Hampi’s exalted ruins, the adjoining town of Sandur transports you to an era of Kings and grand palaces. Erstwhile Skandapuri, this was known as the city of Skanda or Kumaraswamy, whose temple still looks down at the town from top of a hill close by. The edge of the town melts with vast tracts of cornfields and a million shades of green, skirted by stacks of mountains in the distance. For travellers, this is the perfect retreat from the urban world. The sheer quality of air and the easy vibe of the place help you slip into relaxation almost immediately. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi himself, called Sandur ‘an oasis’ when he visited in the 1930s. Here, the Shivavilas Palace, the former home of Shrimant Maharaj Shri Yeshwantrao Hindurao Ghorpade, has been restored and refurbished as a luxury heritage hotel.