In a recent cabinet meeting, the Government of India issued a list of 30 critical minerals. These minerals are essential to the country’s economic growth, climate action and national security. These minerals are highly important for the manufacturing of electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, semiconductors, defense equipments, and several other products of value.
India is 100% import-dependent in terms of certain critical or rare earth minerals. Despite the large geological potential available, India has not been able to extract and process these minerals for its immediate domestic use. As a result of which, India is dependent on other countries for ensuring a sustainable supply of these minerals that can aid the country’s climate action policies, industrial growth and national security. It is also important to note that the Indian Government has officially committed to becoming net-zero and moving towards greener sources of energy production.
However, given the present geopolitical situation, such import dependency makes India vulnerable to various supply chain risks. For example, China has the most dominant presence when it comes to critical minerals and we all know the kind of equation we share with them. Similarly, Russia and Ukraine have large reserves of minerals like Lithium, Cobalt, and Nickel which are fundamental for the manufacturing of EVs. But, the current war has disrupted supply chains, exposing countries like India to risk.
To build resilient supply chains of critical minerals and protect the country’s economic interests and strengthen climate action, Government of India has notified a list of 30 critical minerals, which it will keep revising on a periodic basis.
When did it start?
The process of identifying critical minerals started in 2011 when the erstwhile planning commission undertook an assignment to release a similar list and define the parameters of critical importance for these minerals like economic relevance, supply risks etc. From 2017 to 2020, the country has undertaken an extensive study of the exploration of rare earth minerals in the country. Finally, in November 2022, the Ministry of Mines set up a seven-member committee to come out with a list of critical minerals and propose other measures for ensuring a resilient supply of critical and rare earth minerals. To tackle supply chain risks (like the unavailability of minerals, price spikes, wars etc.), every country undertakes a quantitative assessment to take stock of its critical minerals.
The committee has also suggested setting up a Centre of Excellence for Critical Minerals, on the lines of other countries like Australia that have dedicated agencies for mapping and developing critical minerals policy landscape.
India is also a part of the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) now, which was floated last year, as a global arrangement to navigate through complex geopolitical issues and minimize the risk of shifting global power balance on critical minerals’ supply chains. Some 14 developed countries are part of MSP. India had to do a massive diplomatic push to get entry into MSP.
The Government of India has also established Khanij Bidesh India Limited (KABIL) which will engage in global outreach, through the Ministry of External Affairs and Indian Embassies, for identifying and acquiring overseas mineral assets of critical and strategic nature. It has already initiated its engagement with countries of Australia and Argentina.
Lithium discovery in Kashmir
Recently, the Geological Survey of India during its exploration exercise, discovered a reserve of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium ore in the Resai district of Jammu and Kashmir. This has boosted the ongoing efforts and similar exploration drives for Lithium will be initiated across India, including Jammu and Kashmir. However, India needs to tread the path of Lithium mining (Li-mining) very carefully as Li-mining is considered to be one of the most hazardous kinds of mining. It poses a huge threat to human health and the environment. Several studies highlight the impact of Li-mining in terms of air pollution, water contamination and impact on the health of miners.
Rishabh is the Co-founder and Chief Editor at TA. He tweets at @Writer_Rishabh
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