India is Banking on Critical Minerals, Including Rare Earths

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Source: Adobe Stock/jarous

In the coming years, India will be scouting around for strategic partnerships with multinational mining exploration companies to secure the supply of critical minerals for its defense and manufacturing programs.

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In the opinion of analysts, if the Indian government wants its much-vaunted “Make in India” campaign to be a real success, it has no choice but to do this. Over the coming years, India will need to strategically develop joint partnerships with existing global players to secure assured supply of critical minerals.

For now, India hardly has any domestic reserves of many of the rare earths and the world’s largest democracy is heavily reliant on its neighbor, China, although it has, in the past, made overtures to Japan for supply of critical minerals, too.

In fact, one of the key findings of a recently released government-funded report was that for India’s manufacturing sector to grow — and for the country’s transition from a low to middle technology manufacturer to a high-tech one — twelve “critical, non-fuel minerals” are likely to play a crucial role. These include beryllium, germanium, rhenium and tantalum.

The report by the Centre for Energy, Environment and Water, funded by India’s Department of Science and Technology, talks about India’s manufacturing capabilities that are set to grow by 2030. These include a host of industries such as aerospace, automobiles, nuclear energy, defense and even electronics and entertainment.

In fact, the CEEW study comes on the heels of the announcement of the National Mineral Exploration Policy 2016 earlier this month. The new policy focuses on the prioritization of exploration of critical minerals important to industry and national security.

Under it, India is slated to auction 100 prospective mineral blocks of 24,710 acres (100 square kilometers) in area each by November, thus setting the way for more foreign direct investments in the mining sector.

The Geological Survey of India identified these blocks and the process for auction will start within the next four months.

Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters at the first National Minerals & Mining conclave recently that there was a need for private players to come forward in the auction bids since the two government agencies including GSI had limited exploration capacity. Of India’s thousands of square kilometers of possible mining area, only about 10% has been explored so far.

While releasing the CEEW report, Secretary Mines Balvinder Kumar delved on the recent reforms in mines; allocating mines through fair and transparent auctions, allocating mines for 50 years instead of 30 years, setting up District Mineral Foundations for “socio economic development of the mining affected people” across the country, and setting up the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) for thrust on exploration.

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In the past, several mining projects had been driven to a halt due to environmental concerns. To take into account the environment, the CEEW report said that these minerals would also play a role in “nurturing the domestic manufacturing capacity to support the government’s low-carbon plans,” such as the 100-gigawatt solar target, faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles, and the national domestic efficient lighting program.

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