A microscopic picture of vanadiferous titanomagnetite obtained from near Alang in Gujarat. Credit: B. Gopakumar

Researchers at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered vanadium, a critical industrial raw material, in sediment samples collected from the Gulf of Khambhat, which opens into the Arabian sea off Alang in Gujarat1.

Titanomagnetite – ore containing vanadium – has been identified in samples taken from the funnel-shaped gulf. “It may be the first report of its occurrence in the offshore sediments of India,” says Balakrishnan Gopakumar, lead author of the study.

Vanadium has a vital role in many strategic industrial applications, such as the manufacture of high-strength steel and vanadium batteries. Titanomagnetite is a primary source of the element – 88% of the world’s vanadium is extracted from it.

“However, there are no proven reserves of vanadium ores in India to meet the domestic demand,” the authors say.

The scientists collected 69 samples from sediments in the Gulf of Khambhat. These were then studied using a scanning electron microscope, atomic absorption spectrometry, X-ray diffraction, electron probe micro-analysis and heavy mineral analysis at GSI’s Mineral Physics Laboratory in Nagpur.

“Titanomagnetites, containing high values of vanadium (up to 1.7%), are the dominant magnetic mineral in rapidly quenched submarine basaltic lavas,” the researchers say. “Hence, these grains in Gulf of Khambhat sediments may be derived from the Deccan basalt in the hinterland.”

Investigations for vanadium-enriched sediments, mostly sourced from terrestrial and possibly offshore basaltic deposits, could lead to further discoveries, they add.