Three public sector units — National Aluminium Company (NALCO), Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Copper Ltd. — are set to sign by next month, a joint venture (JV) agreement for making overseas acquisition of reserves of rare metals like lithium and cobalt.
The first acquisition is likely to be made within six months NALCO will hold 34% of the proposed ₹100 crore equity, with the other two companies holding 33% each. “The JV will acquire assets in overseas countries,” HCL CMD Santosh Sharma said.
Expert teams have already visited countries holding such deposits like Chile, Peru and Bolivia, he said, adding that the tie-ups are likely to be between the governments. These rare metals are needed in devices such as mobile phones, laptops and also for electric vehicles.
Turning to HCL, Mr. Sharma said that he expected London Metal Exchange (LME) prices to be good this year in view of the demand- supply situation in copper.
“I do not see a downswing in LME prices in the near future,” he said. There was a global shortage of the metal and exports from India are set to drop on rising domestic demand. HCL is the country’s only integrated copper miner with operating units in Khetri (Rajasthan), Ghatsila (Jharkhand), Malanjkhand (Madhya Pradesh), Taloja (Maharashtra) and Jhagadia(Gujarat).
He said that HCL hoped to increase its ore output by 25% to 51.5 lakh tonnes this fiscal through capacity expansion at its existing mines, reopening of closed mines and acquisition of new ones.
The company has earmarked about ₹1,200 crore towards capital expenditure. The flagship expansion project at Malanjkhand (where an underground project was being developed in the place of the existing opencast mine) will start production this fiscal, while work on reopening the Rakha and the Chapri Sidheswar mines in Ghatsila would start soon.
“We may either go in for the EPC or MDO (mine development operator) route for these mines,” he said.