India’s Mines Ministry is tapping into overseas markets across Africa and Mongolia in its search for critical minerals primarily cobalt and copper.

While Congo is a market where the Ministry is keen to look into for both cobalt and copper, Zimbabwe is mostly for platinum group elements (PGE), chrome, lithium, among others. Mongolia is mostly for interests in copper (and coal).

Cobalt is an essential mineral used for batteries in electric cars, computers, and cell phones. Incidentally, not all copper deposits contain cobalt, but nearly all cobalt in Congo is sourced from copper deposits.

Some of these critical minerals, the list of which was identified by the Ministry earlier this year, are the cornerstone for India’s switch to green mobility and transition towards a lower carbon footprint. The list of these 30-odd minerals include antimony, beryllium, bismuth, cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, indium, lithium, molybdenum, niobium, nickel, PGE, phosphorous, potash, rare earth elements (REE), rhenium, silicon, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, zirconium, selenium and cadmium.

Officials aware of the discussions told businessline that instead of making direct investments at a G2G (government-to-government level), the pitch is primarily to facilitate investment by private players or government-backed and government-owned companies. Industry associations are being tapped into to bring in their members and explore investment opportunities across “mineral-rich” African nations, while also tap into Mongolia appropriately.

Exploring investments

The Ministry also has been planning to tap into Mongolia and there have been discussions to send a delegation to the Central Asian nation to explore investment possibilities.

“So the government will not be making direct investments this time. But we would look at facilitating investments from private companies, CPSEs, or even government-backed companies. Industry associations have been asked to bring their members on-board and check interest in investing in these countries,” said an official, who has been a part of the discussions.

For instance, a major CPSE had agreed to tap into Mongolia for copper resources – investment in mining activities and other options including ownership – and has been planning to visit the country.

In another case, a company where the Centre has a minority stake, was looking into the possibility of getting into Zimbabwe. “Something concrete is yet to materialise there,” said an official.

Industry associations were reportedly asked to check out for interest in investment in cobalt and copper resources of Congo. More than 70 per cent of the world’s cobalt is produced in the African nation, and 15 to 30 per cent of the cobalt is produced by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). Copper mining in Congo takes place in the Katanga province.