India launched the first tranche of auctions for critical and strategic minerals worth around ₹45,000 crore. Some 20 mineral blocks covering lithium and REE (rare earth elements), nickel, copper, chromium, phosphorite, potash, glauconite, graphite, manganese, and molybdenum were put under the hammer.

Of the 20 blocks, 16 are composite licences (exploration, discovery, and up-to-processing) blocks, while four are mining leases.

The blocks are located across 8 States, namely Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Jammu & Kashmir.

Auctions that began on Wednesday will continue until February next year.

The auction shall be held online and through a two-stage ascending-forward process. The eligible bidder shall be selected based on the highest percentage of the value of the mineral dispatched quoted by them.

India had earlier this year identified 24 critical and strategically important minerals, while several changes were made to the MMDR Act.

Lithium Blocks 

Two blocks of lithium are under auction. India’s first official lithium find was in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Salal Haimna block, which had an expected reserve of 5.9 million tonnes has been put up for auction.

Also on auction is the Katghora block in Chhattisgarh, consisting of lithium and rare earth elements (REE). The block is currently in the G4 stage, or reconnaissance study.

“Lithium is a strategic requirement for India’s switch to green energy. And we have been importing the mineral in large quantities. So this is the first time we are trying to auction critical and strategic minerals and reduce imports,” Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister of Mines, said post-launch of the auctions.

The import bill on lithium is to the tune of ₹24,000 crore.

Global majors have also been invited to participate in the auctions. So far, Korean and Japanese mining companies have expressed interest in bidding for India’s lithium reserves, officials told businessline.

To operate a mine, 23 clearances are required, which include environmental clearances apart from State-level clearances.

Across 24 critical minerals, India’s mines ministry has identified 100-odd blocks. “Second tranche discussions will take place post-February,” Joshi said.