Mining

India’s decision to allow private players to mine lithium, other critical minerals step towards self-reliance in clean energy

Six minerals have been removed from the country’s atomic minerals lists

 
By Rohan Malhotra
Published: Thursday 13 July 2023
Private players will bring more capital and foster use of new and emerging technologies used for exploration and mining processes. Photo: iStock__

The Government of India July 12, 2023 amended the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act of 1957, allowing private players to mine lithium and other five critical minerals including titanium, beryllium, zirconium, niobium and tantalum. 

These six minerals have been removed from the country’s atomic minerals lists, paving way for private players to mine and empowering the government to auction their reserves going ahead. 

Recently, the Union Ministry of Mines, has released a list of thirty critical minerals that are strategic to the country's economic development and national security. 

This is a decisive step by the central government to allow private players participating in the mining processes, enabling a much needed public-private partnership in the ecosystem. 

Private players will bring more capital and foster use of new and emerging technologies for exploration and mining processes. These minerals are in high demand as countries move towards green transition and e-mobility. Lithium is one of the most sought-after minerals today across the world, due to its strategic use case in production of batteries needed for electric vehicles. 

India currently is heavily dependent on imports for these minerals and the table below maps the share of specific mineral imports that are used in electric vehicles with their import sources, according to the Union Ministry of Mines. The data is for 2020.

Critical Mineral

Percentage

Major Import Sources

Lithium

100

Chile, Russia, China, Ireland, Belgium

Cobalt

100

China, Belgium, Netherlands, US, Japan

Nickel

100

Sweden, China, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines

Vanadium 

100

Kuwait, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Thailand

Niobium

100

Brazil, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia

Tantalum

100

Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Malaysia, US

Graphite (Natural)

60

China, Madagascar, Mozambique, Vietnam, Tanzania

Manganese

50

South Africa, Gabon, Australia, Brazil, China

Silicon

<1

China, Malaysia, Norway, Bhutan, Netherlands

The Indian government is now in talks with some Latin American nations, including Chile and Argentina to mine and acquire lithium and some of these minerals, which have applications in the defence and space sectors. This will enable India to move towards more enriching public private partnerships, enabling it to be a global manufacturing hub. 

India should revise its lists of critical minerals every three to five years, while preparing a robust and reliable value chain for each mineral used in development of strategic and emerging technologies. 

The entry of private players will enable more and more exploration and also support India’s ambitions to become a global player in batteries and renewable energy technologies, and move towards self reliance. 

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