Okay, there have been a lot of "world's last exploration frontiers" over the years. But one place that particularly fits the bill might be making the first moves toward opening.
Officials from the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) gathered for a convention and trade show this week. And brought a message for the government: something has to change in India's mineral sector.
The group's president H.C. Daga logged official concerns that India is a major consumer of commodities like gold, coal and phosphate--and yet the nation's production of these mined products is flagging to non-existent.
That's not for lack of mineral wealth in the country. Daga noted that "(t)hough gold ore reserves are estimated to be about 390 million tonnes, production is a mere 0.5 million tonnes due to lack of exploration and investment in technology."
The last part is key. India is a vast and well-endowed geologic terrain. Some of the world's largest historic mines are here, such as the Kolar gold fields.
But the country's mineral investment framework is a disaster. Rules on exploration permitting and conducting work programs are complex and bureaucratic, to the point of being unmanageable. In many cases, the sector is closed to private investment entirely.
It's for this reason India is one of the only high-potential nations on Earth with no major internationally-operated mines. Even former pariah states like next-door Myanmar have big mines run by outside firms.
But this week's comments from FIMI are a sign that pressure is building to change that. Indian imports of coal and gold are soaring. Iron ore looks like it may go the same way. This is causing real, economic pain. The kind that just might spur politicians to look seriously at reforming exploration to kickstart domestic production.
If exploration reform does take root, this would be one of the biggest opportunities to come along for some time. India is proven ground, left massively under-explored. That's a recipe for major mineral discoveries.
Here's to the last frontier,
By. Dave Forest