July opening for Rs.170 crore titanium sponge plant Titanium sponge plant- India the fifth producer in the world Thiruvananthapuram, March 11 : A Rs. 170 crore titanium sponge plant in Kollam is expected to be commissioned in July, making India the fifth producer in the world of what is considered the metal of the 21st century and which has immense space and defence applications. Being funded by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) the plant is being set up by Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML) and will annually produce 500 tonnes of titanium sponge. "Initially the plant was envisaged to cost Rs.100 crore, but due to the cost escalation it will now cost Rs.170 crore," Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem told IANS. "The raw material for production of titanium sponge would be supplied by KMML and it would be titanium dioxide, which would be processed from the mineral-rich sand found in the coastal areas of the state," Kareem added. The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is now in the last stages of separating magnesium from titanium dioxide. "This is vital because for the titanium sponge plant to be commercially viable, magnesium has to be separated from titanium dioxide and what we are told is that the DMRL is expected to make this separation soon," Kareem said. Titanium is described as the metal of the 21st century, known for its high strength, light weight and non-corrosive and non-reactive properties. It finds immense use in space and defence applications. Titanium also finds use in surgical transplants, atomic energy and jewellery. Kareem also said the state government had given the nod to set up a Mineral Research Institute at the KMML campus. "Research in this area is of vital importance because we have all the natural resources and the need of the hour now is value addition. For that, this new institute, which would also have a state-of-the-art laboratory, would be helpful," said Kareem. A meeting of experts will be held here next month to discuss the setting up of the institute. Representatives from DMRL, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the Science and Technology Department and vice chancellors of the Kerala and Cochin University will attend the meeting, Kareem said.