The country’s largest iron-ore miner NMDC is looking to tap Africa for lithium and other critical minerals. The company is also negotiating for more lithium blocks in Australia, sources aware of the discussions told businessline.

However, in India, the company is looking to opt for the reservation route (nomination by the government), rather than auction, for mining lithium. The company has so far, however, not applied for blocks – on a nomination basis - from the Centre.

“We are looking at lithium apart from Australia,” said an official, adding that the company was “also negotiating in Africa” for lithium and other critical minerals.

The official said NMDC was also in discussions on some of the working mines (in Australia) “for some equity stake or some offtake agreement”.

According to sources, NMDC is “looking at countries that can offer opportunity for lithium”.

Previously, Amitava Mukherkjee, Chairman and Managing Director (Additional Charge) and Director (Finance), NMDC Ltd, during an analyst call said: “...will not apply for the auction route. In fact, we are looking at lithium beyond the border even Australia.”

Pre Feasibility Studies

In Australia, NMDC would look to “soon” start pre-feasibility studies (PFS) on lithium mining, and it is likely to be completed in 12 to 18 months. Talks with its partner, Hancock Prospecting, are already underway.

NMDC’s presence in Australia is through its subsidiary, Legacy Iron Ore Ltd. And, it continues to explore the Mount Bevan region in Western Australia.

“Our arrangements (are) in a very lithium-rich area where there are working mines just above our arrangements, or just below our arrangements. So we are doing our pre-feasibility studies (PFS) along with our people, along with our partners,” Mukherjee had previously said.

NMDC, however, will not participate in rare earth mining.