India’s Mines Ministry has annulled auctions for 14 critical mineral blocks - that were put up in the second tranche - for want of requisite number of bidders.

Nearly 78 per cent of the blocks put up for auction in the second tranche stand annulled.

The blocks annulled cover minerals such as graphite, tungsten, cobalt & manganese (including poly metallic nodules), potash among others. 

A total of 18 blocks has been put on auction in round two that was announced  earlier in February this year. 

Of the 14 blocks cancelled, five did not receive any bidders and nine received less than the mandatory three minimum bidders. 

The auction was a part of the Narendra Modi-ruled government’s push towards cleaner alternatives; and a step towards self reliance in critical mineral supplies. 

The five blocks that received no bidders  includes the vanadium and graphite block in Arunachal Pradesh, the REE (rare earth element) block including gold and copper also located in Arunachal. Two potash blocks located in Rajasthan did not receive any bids; while the platinum group of element, chromium and nickel block at Maharashtra also did not get any bids, senior officials aware of the developments told businessline

“Since there were less than three (3) Technically Qualified Bidders for each of these nine mineral blocks which were put-up for e-auction, thus pursuant to Clause 8.1 (A) (f) of the Tender Document and sub rule 10 of Rule 9 of Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 as amended, the auction process of the following Nine(9) mineral blocks stands annulled,” the official said. 

These nine blocks include two vanadium and graphite blocks in Arunachal Pradesh, one tungsten block each in Andhra Pradesh,  Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh; one glauconite block in Chhattisgarh and one phosphorus and limestone block also in Chhattisgarh. This apart a nickel, chromium and other associated mineral block in Maharashtra did not get the requisite number of bidders. 

A cobalt, manganese, iron and other poly metallic nodule block in Karnataka has also not got three or more bidders. 

Some of these blocks have been taken up in the fourth tranche of auctions that were announced on Monday, a senior ministry official said. 

According to Anoop Gutgutia, Chiarman, Committee on Ferrous Alloys, IFAPA, previously two molybdenum mines in Tamil Nadu received no bids, primarily because the ones identified did not have commercial viability and was low on content or they were not extractable. “Considering the critical nature of molybdenum there is a need for the government to focus on enhancing domestic manufacturing for downstream and mid-stream critical mineral products such as ferro molybdenum by removing the import duty on raw material,” he said.

So far three tranches of auctions have taken place, wherein 38 mineral blocks were put up, and a fourth tranche saw addition of 10 new mineral blocks. In all India has identified some 100-odd critical mineral blocks and post commercial viability will look to auction most of them.  

India’s first ever list of 24 critical minerals was compiled and made public in 2023; and the list included minerals like lithium, tungsten, copper, cobalt, graphite, among others. 

In the next 100-days off-shore mineral block auctions will also commence; and 10 blocks covering poly-metallic nodules, lime mud, among others have already been identified in the eastern and western coast of India.