Critical Minerals

Context: The government has approved amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act allowing commercial mining of lithium and a few other minerals. Proposed Amendments:
  • Lifting ban: The amendment will lift the ban on commercial mining of six critical minerals which are Lithium, beryllium, titanium, niobium, tantalum and zirconium.
  • Critical minerals: The government declared 30 minerals as critical for the country, including these six minerals.
  • Monetising assets: The proposed amendment will allow the Central government to auction these minerals while the royalty will go to states.
Need for amendment:
  • Procurement of critical minerals: Government is focused on procuring critical minerals, especially lithium, which is useful for batteries, especially for electric vehicles.
  • Mining by private entities: Currently, commercial mining of these critical minerals by private companies is prohibited. Only government agencies were allowed in exploration and mining operations.
  • Energy Transition: So far, most of the exploration in the country has been focussed on bulk commodities like limestone, coal and iron ore. With new requirements in transition, there is a growing demand for critical minerals, prompting the government to focus on the exploration of deep-seated and critical minerals.
  • Reducing import dependency: India is seeking to become a manufacturing hub and reduce import dependence of several minerals used in manufacturing.
    • Currently, India is dependent on China and other countries to meet its requirement of critical minerals including Rare Earth Elements (REE), which are the building blocks of modern-day technologies.
What are critical minerals?
  • Critical minerals are those minerals that are at risk of supply shortage, which may have a larger impact on the economy compared to that of other raw materials.
Additional Information
  • Properties: Lithium is the lightest and softest metal in the world. It is a non-ferrous metal.
  • Uses: This metal is one of the critical components for batteries that power electric vehicles and numerous gadgets like smartphones and laptops.
  • Import dependence: India meets about 70% of its lithium requirement via imports, however, earlier this year, India discovered 5.9 million tonnes worth of lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir. 
  • Spread around the world: At present, 47% of the world’s lithium is produced in Australia, 30% in Chile, and 15% in China.

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