Kollam: The Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML), India’s first and only manufacturer of Rutile Grade Titanium Dioxide by chloride process, is running on age-old machines that date back to the early 1980s. The company lacks proper safety facilities including leak alert systems at its plants that had witnessed many small and large chlorine leaks over the last three decades.
The plant was established in 1932 as F. X. Perira and Sons (Travancore) Pvt. Ltd., by a private entrepreneur and was taken over by the State Government in 1956 to become a public limited company in 1972. The Titanium Dioxide Pigment plant started commercial production in 1984. The phases of production include Mineral Separation Unit (MS Unit) of KMML engaged in the separation of Ilmenite which is one of the major components in producing titanium.
This is treated at the Acid Regeneration Plant (ARP) and is shifted to the Ilmenite Beneficiation Plant (IBP) at the factory. The chlorides of impure metals are removed from Titanium Tetra Chloride and Titanium Dioxide is produced by reacting titanium ores with chlorine gas at the recently notorious plants 200 and 300 to get synthetic Rutile, and Titanium Dioxide is obtained from plant 400. These processes involve high temperature and pressure chemical processes that are basically corrosive, eating up the plants in which these are contained.
“Machinery at KMML is old and corroded along with the outdated acid generation plant. There have been numerous chlorine leaks in the last 30 years. We experienced it when we felt the familiar stink in the air. Sometimes Titanium Chloride leaks from plant 300 that turns the air cloudy like smoke,” said a KMML employee who is also an activist.
The employees often get hospitalised for two-three days, affected by these leaks from outdated plants,” said a KMML employee who is also an activist.
The factory has also not implemented the safety recommendations suggested by the Factories and Boilers Department. The location of the plant in the coastal belt also accelerates the corrosion, thereby hastening the corrosive processes inside the factory....
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