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Government launches first-ever auction of critical minerals; 20 blocks up for sale

To boost the exploration and extraction of critical and strategic minerals, the government on Wednesday launched auctions for 20 blocks of such minerals including 5.9-million-tonne lithium reserves discovered in Reasi district of Jammu & Kashmir.

This will first ever auction of critical and strategic minerals by the mines ministry after the government amended mining laws during the monsoon session of Parliament to allow the private sector to explore and mine these important minerals.

Union minister of coal, mines and parliamentary affairs Pralhad Joshi said the auction is being conducted to secure a critical-mineral supply chain for India’s energy transition and net-zero-by-2070 target.

In the first tranche of auctions, the mines ministry is offering 20 blocks of critical and strategic minerals spread across seven states – Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh – and the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir.

While most of the blocks are being offered on a composite licence – with which an entity can explore the resource and get a lease to commercially extract minerals – four have been earmarked only for mining leases.

Apart from lithium, critical minerals encompass titanium, bauxite (aluminous laterite), glauconite, nickel, chromium, potash, copper, graphite, manganese ore, molybdenum ore, phosphorite, platinum group elements, and rare earth elements.

The auction will be conducted online in two stages and bidders will be selected based on the highest percentage of the value of mineral dispatch they quote. Bids have been invited in digital format only, and technical bids have been invited both in digital and physical formats.

Critical minerals are essential for India’s economic development and national security. The lack of widespread availability of these minerals, and the concentration of their extraction and processing in a few countries, could lead to supply-chain vulnerabilities.

The future global economy will be underpinned by technologies that depend on minerals such as lithium, graphite, cobalt, titanium and rare earth elements. India has committed to achieving 50% of its cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030.

This ambitious plan is set to drive demand for electric cars, wind and solar energy projects, and battery storage systems, which will increase the demand for critical minerals.

India currently meets most of its critical and strategic minerals needs through imports. Through an amendment to the MMDR Act on 17 August, 24 minerals were notified as ‘critical’ and ‘strategic’. The amendment give the government the power to auction blocks of these minerals based on India’s requirements. The revenue generated from these auctions will accrue to state governments.

Royalty rates for critical minerals have also been rationalized to encourage more participation in these auctions.

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Updated: 29 Nov 2023, 08:56 PM IST


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