India has taken a proactive approach to identify and secure the supply of critical minerals, which are essential for the country’s economic and strategic interests. The Ministry of Mines has constituted a committee to identify critical and strategic minerals, and recommended the establishment of a “Centre of Excellence on Critical Minerals” (CECM) to periodically update the list of critical minerals for India.
The committee identified 30 minerals as critical for the country, and 24 of them have been included in the list of critical and strategic minerals. These minerals are vital for various sectors such as defence, aerospace, electronics, renewable energy, electric vehicles, and nuclear power. Some of the critical minerals identified by the committee are lithium, cobalt, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, titanium, and rare earth elements.
To ensure a consistent supply of these minerals to the domestic market, a joint venture company named Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) has been incorporated. KABIL is a collaboration with equity contributions from three Central Public Sector Enterprises: National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd, and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd. KABIL’s mandate is to acquire strategic mineral assets abroad and enhance India’s mineral security.
India amends its mining law to facilitate auction of critical mineral blocks
A step in this direction was the recent amendment to the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act, 1957, through the MMDR Amendment Act, 2023. This amendment includes 24 critical and strategic minerals in part D of Schedule-I of the MMDR Act, 1957. Additionally, the amended Act empowers the Central Government to auction blocks containing these critical minerals.
In response to this, the government launched the first tranche of auctions for 20 blocks on November 29, 2023. The auction includes blocks with minerals such as Glauconite, Nickel, Chromium, Potash, Graphite, Manganese, Molybdenum, Phosphorite, Lithium, Titanium, and Bauxite (Aluminous Laterite), among others. The auction process is expected to be completed by March 2024, and the successful bidders will be granted mining leases for 50 years.
The auction of critical mineral blocks is expected to attract private sector participation, boost mineral exploration, and generate employment opportunities in the mining sector. The government has also simplified the procedures and reduced the timelines for obtaining statutory clearances for mining activities.
India promotes research and innovation in critical mineral extraction and processing
The Ministry of Mines, under its ‘Science and Technology Programme,’ is actively promoting research and innovation in startups and MSMEs in the mining, mineral processing, metallurgy, and recycling sector. One of the focal points is the extraction of strategic and critical minerals at the elemental level. The Ministry has allocated Rs. 100 crore for supporting research projects in this domain.
Furthermore, the Ministry is engaged in multilateral partnerships, such as the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP), to secure the critical mineral demand of India. The MSP is a platform for cooperation among countries that share common interests and challenges in the critical mineral sector. The MSP aims to facilitate information exchange, joint exploration, technology development, and capacity building among the partner countries.
The significance of critical minerals in the global energy transition has been recognized under India’s G20 presidency, and the Ministry has successfully included it in the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration. The declaration acknowledges the need for ensuring a stable and diversified supply of critical minerals, and calls for enhancing international cooperation and coordination in this regard.