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Ancient Metal Mines of Rajasthan and Gujarat
Metal mining is practiced in India since time immemorial. Gold, silver, copper, lead zinc, iron metals and alloys are mentioned in old religious Hindu literature. Finding of metal objects from the archaeological sites of Indus Valley Culture (3500 BC; Harappan/ Pre-Harappan) e.g. Mohenjo Daro, Harappa, Lothal etc., is well known. Kautilya (400 BC) in his Arthashastra described the metal mining and metallurgical activities on different metallic ores. In Rajasthan metal mining is being conducted since ancient past, the testimony of which are numerous mine sites, mine waste dumps, slag heaps and remains of furnaces or retorts. The great historian Colonel James Todd (1829) adorned the autonomy of Rajput Kingdoms with a triple figurative of ‘Aan-Daan-Khaan’ indicating the importance of mining in these states. He mentioned working mines of silver-tin in Zawar, copper in Dariba and lead near Gwalior. From Zawar and Dariba, Mewar Kingdom was getting Rs. 300,000/- annually. Study of the old metal mines, which are popularly known as old workings, started in Rajasthan and Gujarat by Geological Survey of India during British period.
Based on physical characters and use, the ancient metal mines of Rajasthan and Gujarat are classified into three main categories:
  • The first category mines are open in nature and occur as irregular pits to trenches, and show shallow to moderate depth of half a metre to 15 m or so. Some of these might be trial pits. Generally these are filled-up by rubble, soil or vegetal material. Such workings are present in almost all metal prospects.
  • Second category of mines occurs as vertical shafts with circular openings, narrow in diameter (0.75 to 1.5 m) but deep (upto 80 m). These are mostly situated close to the mine debris and seen in cluster of more than one, to upto 40 or 50 in numbers. These are sub-classified as lined with stone mortar and lime, or un-lined. The lined shafts were used for haulage of ore or dewatering the mine when working below the water table. Evidences of dewatering of mines are best preserved at Bhagoni and Naldeshwar (Alwar district); Matasula and Kalajoda areas (Jaipur district); and Dhanaota (Sikar district) in the form of sloping floor at individual shaft and joined with drains. The un-lined shafts were meant for mine ventilation.
  • The third category of mines are inclines or tunnel-like openings meant for entering into underground mine as seen at Khetri (Jhunjhunu district), Satkui (Sikar district), Matasula (Jaipur district), Naldeshwar (Alwar district), Bhukia ((Banswara district)) and Hinglaz Mata (Udaipur district) areas.
The ancient metal mines can be classified based on the metal excavated:-
  • The copper mines present in Khetri belt at Madan-Kudan, Akwali, Satkui, Dhanaota etc; Alwar-Jaipur belt at Kho-Dariba, Naldeshwara, Pratapgarh, Gol-Badshahpur etc.; and Salumbar-Banswara belt at Anjani, Bedawal, Chari-Manpura etc.
  • Multi-metal mines (lead-zinc-copper) found mainly in central Rajasthan at Sawar, Rajpura-Dariba, Hirakhera etc. (Pur-Banera-Bhinder belt); in south Rajasthan at Basantgarh, Pipela, Golia, Watera, Deri etc. (Pindwara-Watera-Deri belt); and in north Gujarat at Amba Mata.
  • Iron workings present in Tonda, Luhakana, Rajgarh and Nimla areas in north Rajasthan; Kanti, Manoharpur etc. areas within BIF in Jahazpur/ Pur-Banera-Bhinder belts in central Rajasthan and in Natharia Ki Pal, Parsola, Kanpura-Bhuwere etc. areas in south Rajasthan.
  • Gold mines identified recently at few places viz. Bhukia-Jagpura, Hinglaz Mata, Dogecha, Vasu etc. (southeastern Rajasthan), Satkui, Kalajoda, Gor-Pahari, Sonara, Dhani Basri (north Rajasthan) and Devtalai, Pipela, Danva-Ajari (south-central Rajasthan) etc.
  • Silver mines identified near Jodhawas (Alwar district) and Bharak (Bhilwara district) in Rajasthan.
In Khetri copper belt in north Rajasthan forty prospects have ancient copper mines. The important sites are at Madan-Kudan, Kolihan, Akwali, Satkui and Dhanaota. In Dhanaota, gossan hill near Udaipurwati there are 52 ancient shafts. Evidences of mine collapse are seen in this area. Most of the Udaipurwati village is built over large slag heaps. In Alwar-Jaipur belt about 30 areas show ancient copper mines. The important ones include Pratapgarh-Raisar, Matasula-Maliawas, Kalajoda, Naldeshwar, Bhagoni, Todi/ Gola Ka bas, Bhangarh and Khoh-Dariba etc. In Pratapgarh-Raisar area, there are about 500 old mines, majority of which are in the form of deep (upto 60 m), lined shafts. In Naldeshwar area 123 ancient copper mines exist. Evidences of dewatering of mines exist in this area, indicating that the mining was being carried out below the water table. Near Bhangarh the mines near Todi Ka Bas show 45 m collapse. The shafts are upto 60 m deep in Kalajoda area near Virat Nagar (Bairat). At Bhagoni more than 50 ancient shafts of 1 to 1.5 m diameter, lined with stone show depth between 50 and 80 m and spread over 200 m.
The Kishangarh-Ajmer base metal belt has 30 ancient mines for iron, copper and lead-zinc, out of which Loha Khan and Tara Khan located near Ajmer, are famous. Ancient metal mines are also seen near Chitar, Kalabar, Birantiya and Borwar. Punagarh hill has old mines with shafts upto 60 m deep. In Sirohi belt 15 multi-metal prospects exhibit ancient mines, mostly in the form of shallow pits or trenches e.g. Basantgarh and Deri.
In central Rajasthan around Agucha there are 20 prospects, of which 15 bear testimony of ancient mining. At Agucha there is a large (largest in Asia) open cast zinc-lead mine. From archaeo-metallurgical studies it is confirmed that our ancestors had mined the oxidized part of lead ore for extraction of silver out of it. About 15 multi-metal prospects exist in Jahazpur belt and almost all have ancient mines e.g. around Sawar-Bajta and Devtalai. Besides, several old mines are seen near Ummedpura-Sujanpura, Manorgarh-Itaunda, Umar and Gardari within BIF. In Pur-Banera and Rajpura-Dariba belts about 50 metal prospects and impressive old mining sites are located. In Dariba area the ancient prospectors had carried out mining upto a depth of 260 m, which makes it the deepest ancient mine in Rajasthan.
In southeastern Rajasthan i.e. Udaipur-Zawar-Dungarpur belt about 40 ancient multi-metal mine areas including the world famous Zawar mine for zinc-lead-silver are located. For industrial zinc production the name of Zawar comes first in the world. Zawar area was active for mining till 1820 AD. Native silver occurs here associated with lead. There is an old mine known as Pratap Khan because Great Warrior Maharana Pratap had taken refuge in it during war with Moguls. Between Zawar and Dungarpur, ancient copper mines are present near Parshad, Paduna, Bara, Deval, Metali, Mando Ki Pal, Sarkan etc. Around Udaipur these are seen near Bemla, Lal Madri etc. In Salumbar-Ghatol belt about 70 localities have ancient metal mines for iron, manganese, copper, lead, zinc and gold. In Mewar, only the Chief of Salumbar was granted permission to produce its own copper coins during Rajput Kingdom. Near Salumbar the old mines are in the form of trenches or shafts viz. at Anjani, Bedawal, Balicha, Chari, Jambura, Rajpura, Boraj, Kukra, Manpura-Sanjela, Lohagarh, Ambav, Parsola, Hinglaz Mata, Bharkundi etc. In Bhukia-Jagpura area there is a cluster of more than 400 old mines (small, large, underground etc.). Earlier these mines were thought for iron and then for copper. The recent surveys, however, revealed that these were mainly for gold associated with copper. Tamba Dungri near Jharka is an old copper mine site. Near Talwara deep mines for iron and manganese are present. Lead mining sites are seen near Goj-Parla, Matia and Karbalia etc.
The old multi-metal mines exist near Ambaji or Amba Mata and Mala, (Banaskantha district), Khandia, Barkunda and Jaban in north Gujarat. Ancient metal mines are identified at Pipli, Mal, Anas and Lakai in Panchmahals district. The extensive metal mining activities carried out in Amba Mata area during the past has been referred in Jain religious texts.
Based on the available information it is inferred that the metal mining continued in Kho-Dariba, Rajpura-Dariba, Zawar and Khetri areas in eighteenth century AD. Archaeological studies conducted in different parts of Rajasthan indicated that the initial metal mining activity in the area is of great antiquity. Carbon dating showed a maximum age of 3040 ± 150 years BP for Rajpura-Dariba. Zawar (2360 ± 50) and Agucha (2350 ± 40) mines came later. Presence of metal artifacts and equipments at Chalcolithic site of Ahar (Ayyad) near Udaipur bears its testimony. Finding of ancient copper objects in Baleshwar area (east of Khetri) confirmed that it was one of the copper sources during Indus Valley Culture (3000-1500 BC).
Open cast ancient gold mine in Bhukia prospect
Largest Indian open cast lead-zinc mine at Agucha
Old ventilation shafts in Anjeni copper prospect
An old shaft in Naldeshwar copper prospect
Large slumped copper mine at Todi ka Bas
An opening of underground mine at Todi ka Bas
The Baun Kui (old shafts) of Dhanaota area
A shaft with platform for dewatering the underground copper mine at Naldeshwar
An underground opening of mine in Bhukia gold prospect
Inside view of old Dhanaota copper mine
Opening of an incline at Naldeshwar old copper mine area
Linear trench type mine at Birantiya Khurd
A ventilation shaft in Bhukia prospect
14. Old mine shafts of Satkui (seven pits) copper prospect
Contributed by: A.K. GROVER, Director
Geological Survey of India, WR, Jaipur-302004

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