India and U.S. work out strategies to scale up collaboration on critical minerals under iCET

The partnership will also aim to strengthen ties on research and development with institutions from both countries working together

Published - June 19, 2024 10:21 pm IST - New Delhi

India is presently exploring opportunities for acquisition of critical minerals assets such as lithium.

India is presently exploring opportunities for acquisition of critical minerals assets such as lithium. | Photo Credit: PTI

India and the U.S. are looking to “quickly” conclude a bilateral agreement on furthering cooperation on critical minerals between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Mines, and to drive a partnership in supply chains for graphite, gallium, and germanium.

One of the aims will be to promote “India’s vital role in the mineral security partnership, including through co-investing in a lithium resource project in South America and a rare earths deposit in Africa, to responsibly and sustainably diversify critical mineral supply chains”, said a fact sheet issued on June 17 on the India-U.S. Initiative for Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) dialogue, chaired by the National Security Advisers of the countries.

In July 2023, India released a list of 30 minerals critical for the country and has been looking to acquire mines abroad in addition to expanding exploration within the country. To enable this, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 was amended through the MMDR Amendment Act, 2023.

India has incorporated a joint venture company Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) with equity contribution from three Central Public Sector Enterprises — National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd — with the objective of acquiring critical mineral assets abroad to ensure consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to the Indian domestic market. KABIL is presently exploring opportunities for acquisition of critical minerals assets like lithium and cobalt in Australia, Argentina and Chile.

The Ministry of Mines has already joined the mineral security partnership led by the U.S. which aims to enhance cooperation in securing the supply chain of critical minerals for the member countries by facilitating investment in identified blocks of these minerals in resource-rich countries.

The fact sheet also spoke of the establishment of an India-U.S. advanced materials research and development forum to expand collaboration between American and Indian universities, national laboratories, and private sector researchers. Exploring opportunities for collaboration in the critical minerals sector like bilateral collaboration in technologies for neodymium-iron-boron metal, alloy and magnet making, and collaboration with Department of Energy entities, are also listed among the aims. Indian collaboration with U.S. organisations and companies for carrying out research studies for beneficiation of critical minerals, including lithium, titanium, gallium, and vanadium, is also part of the plan.

Effort is also on for a collaborative programme between the Geological Survey of India and the U.S. Geological Survey on exploration, characterisation and evaluation of rare earth elements and critical mineral deposits.

Last November, the government launched the first tranche of e-auction of 20 blocks of critical and strategic minerals such as lithium, rare earth elements, platinum group of minerals, nickel and potash, aimed at creating a “steady supply of these minerals, thus reducing our reliance on imports and ensuring a more secure and resilient supply chain”.

Securing long-term supply of these minerals is especially important as India looks to reduce its carbon footprint by significantly scaling up the share of green technologies in its energy mix.

Critical and deep-seated minerals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, gold, silver, and copper are difficult to explore and mine as compared to surfical or bulk minerals, the government statement noted in December, while adding that the country is mostly dependent on imports of these minerals.

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