The story of Hindustan Zinc that celebrates its Golden Jubilee, from the days of PSU, to post disinvestment, a Vedanta Group company. A journey of a company that is the world’s leading integrated zinc producer today...

Zinc mining is not new in India. The traces of zinc mining in India can be seen at Zawar, about 40 kms from the city of lakes, Udaipur in Rajasthan. Zawarmala mine at Zawar is an ancient mine which as per the radio carbon dating is over 2500 years old. The ancient retorts can still be seen while going towards the Zawar mines. The history of Zinc-Lead production in India goes back to its roots in 1942 when a small Lead smelting pilot plant was set-up at Tundoo, near Dhanbad in Bihar.

In 1944 the Metal Corporation of India was formed and all the assets of the company were transferred to MCI. In 1945 Government of India surrendered the mining rights over Zawar to Mewar Durbar and in the same year Metal Corporation of India obtained the prospecting license for 2 years, and later got mining lease in 1950.

In 1960 Metal Corporation of India obtained license for production of 9,000 tonnes per annum of Lead and 540,000ozs of silver. In 1965 the Government of India proposed nationalization of Zinc-Lead mining and smelting, and an MCI was nationalized by an Act of Parliament.

It was 10th January 1966, a new era began, when Hindustan Zinc Limited was incorporated in Rajasthan and in the same year, foundation of Debari Smelter was also laid down, with a modest target of 18,000 tonnes per annum of Zinc. In 1972, 1st expansion programme of Hindustan Zinc launched to increase the capacity at Debari smelter.  Simultaneously Balaria mine at Zawar was also put on course to develop to meet the increasing requirement of zinc concentrate.
Year 1976, was a historical day when Hindustan Zinc posted a profit of Rs. 10 crore. In 1976 only, to give impetus to research and development, Hindustan Zinc established its Central Research & Development Laboratory (CRDL), and from this day, metal recoveries and optimization of waste became a priority.
In 1978, Vizag Smelter got commissioned and Zinc production started through imported concentrate. The year also saw commissioning of Balaria mine at Zawar. In 1978, the Agnigundla Lead mine was taken over from Hindustan Copper Limited with a production capacity of 300Tpd Lead – Zinc ore. This mine was closed in year 2002 because of unviable operation.

History was about to be unveiled for India when in 1979 origin of Rampura Agucha mine was traced. Hindustan Zinc acquired the mining rights of Rampura Agucha mine and in 1980 1st exploration hole at Rampura Agucha was performed. The feasibility report came in about 20 months and suggested development of 3000 tonnes of mining per day. Zinc-Lead mining in India was all set to make a mark in international market.

Sargipali Lead mine in Sundergarh district of Odisha was commissioned in the year 1983 with the production capacity of 500 tonnes per day Lead ore. Later on, it was closed in the year 2001 because of the exhaustion of the reserves. This also brought a challenge to expand the capacities of Zinc-Lead smelting operations. Meanwhile in 1984 Rajpura Dariba mine was also commissioned. 1989 was a historical year when production from Rampura Agucha was commissioned.

In 1991 Hindustan Zinc commissioned out its first blast furnace based on Pyro-Smelting Technology at Chanderiya. To match the growing demand of Zinc-Lead in India, Hindustan Zinc, in the year 1994, carried out the Pillar Blast at Mochia mine in Zawar.  The meticulously planned blast was one of the rare incidents not only for India but for the entire Asia.  8 major blasts were done during the span of 1986-2004 and the biggest blast was executed on 13th June 1994 that resulted in generation of 550,000 tonnes of ore.
It was also decided to develop Sindesar Khurd deposits, in the year 1997. In the same year a Zinc Smelter with a capacity of 60,000 to 100,000 tonnes was also planned. Mining probabilities at Ajmer district were also explored in the same year. History was again made in the year 1999 when Hindustan Zinc became a ‘debt free company’.

The journey from 1966 to 1999 has been a journey that laid the foundation of mechanised Zinc-Lead mining and smelting in India. But the world was moving ahead in production and capacities and it was time for the government to look for disinvestment in public sector units which had potential to grow further but were lacking due to funds and resources.

It was 10th April 2002 – a landmark decision privatized Hindustan Zinc and Sterlite Group was declared successful bidder for acquiring 26% equity in Hindustan Zinc. The result was evident, in the year 2003, Hindustan Zinc registered 113.58% growth in its profit. The journey for making Hindustan Zinc a world class asset had begun. In the year 2004, 35,000 tonnes of Zinc de-bottlenecking was completed at Chanderiya Smelting Complex.

Year 2005 was coming out to be an year of expansions and commissions. The year saw commissioning of Hydro-I Zinc Smelter at Chanderiya Smelting Complex with a production capacity of 170,000 tonnes per annum. Two captive power plants of 77 MW each were also commissioned during the same year and in the same year Rampura Agucha Mine was expanded from 2.30 Million tonnes per annum to 3.75 million tonnes per annum.

This expansion made Hindustan Zinc the world’s 3rd largest integrated zinc producer. An achievement that made the entire world look at India as the new leader in zinc production. To address the growing need for Lead in India, in the year 2006, the Company commissioned a 50,000 tonnes per annum Ausmelt Lead Smelter at Chanderiya Smelting Complex.

In the year 2007, Sindesar Khurd Mine began production with an initial capacity of 0.3 million tonne per annum. Another landmark decision surprised the world when Hindustan Zinc entered into green energy by commissioning 38.4 MW of Wind Energy Farms in Gujarat.

The production of zinc was all set to improve further when in the year 2008 Hindustan Zinc commissioned Hydro-II, and made a world record by commissioning a smelter in flat 20 months. Simultaneously Company also commissioned an 80 MW of captive power generation unit at Chanderiya. In the same year another 50,4 MW of wind energy farms were commissioned in Gujarat.

Year 2009 again became a historical year for expansions. Rampura Agucha mine this year got expanded to 5.00 million tonnes per annum from 3.75 million tonne capacity. Debottlenecking at Chanderiya and Debari increased metal production capacity by 88,000 tonnes per annum. The year also increased Company’s thermal power generation capacity for captive use by commissioning of 80 MW Captive Power Plant at Zawar. Wind energy farms get another commissioning with 34.4 MW, taking the total capacity to 123.2 MW. The year 2009 made Hindustan Zinc the World’s 2nd Largest Integrated Zinc Producer.

The growing international demand for Zinc-Lead made Hindustan Zinc successfully complete another expansion phase. In the year 2010 the Company further expanded its mining capacity to 6.00 Million tonnes per annum at Rampura Agucha from 5.00 Million tonnes. With this the mining capacities of Hindustan Zinc increased to 8.40 million tonnes per annum.

With growing mining activity it was necessary to also increase the smelting capacities. Hydro-III with 210,000 tonnes per annum was commission at Rajpura Dariba. With this the metal production capacity increased to 964,000 tonnes per annum, which included 879,000 of zinc and 85,000 of lead.
2010 was the was the year when Hindustan Zinc became a world leader, the world’s largest Integrated Zinc Producing company, a strategic and landmark position for India. The company carried out a first ever intensive Heliborne Survey in 2010.

In the year 2011, 2.00Mtpa capacity silver-rich Sindesar Khurd mine got commissioned, bringing a new ray of hope in Silver production and underground mining technology in India. To give support to Dariba Zinc Smelter, the company commissioned 160 MW of thermal power units. Wind energy was also increased by 48.7 MW. To give further focus to Lead production, Hindustan Zinc commission 100,000 tonnes per annum Lead Smelter at Dariba, increasing the Lead production capacity to 185,000 tonnes per annum. 

The wind energy got a further boost by commission of 101.6 MW wind farms and now the project included states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka besides Gujarat, taking the wind power generation capacity to about 273.5 MW. With growing need for underground mining at Rampura Agucha, in the Year 2012, the company started developing underground mining work at Rampura Agucha and simultaneously green-field Kayar mine.

In the year 2013 the production of developmental ore from Rampura Agucha underground mine and Kayad underground mine started. The company also initiated the expansion work at other mines.Recently Hindustan Zinc has signed MoU with the Rajasthan Government under the Resurgent Rajasthan to invest Rs 8,357 crore in the next 3-5 years towards expansion of its mines and smelting capacities.

The target is set for the future to increase mine production to 12.80 million tonne from the current level of 9.09 million tonne per annum, and finished metal production to 1.028 million tonne from current level of 0.85 million tonne per annum.

14,000 people work in Hindustan Zinc today which has about 20% female employees (in fresh intake). The focus is on state-of-the-art environment friendly technology, a strong vendor-supplier base, and a strong foot in Indian Zinc-Lead market with over 80% domestic market share. Sustainability and care for the community is on utmost priority. Speak to the people who have worked in the past or working at present for the Company, and they would instantly say, ‘they own the company’.

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