India’s Mines Ministry has identified some 22-odd blocks of critical minerals — in various stages of exploration — for possible future auction. Some seven critical mineral blocks across nine States are under discussion, sources told businessline.

The critical mineral reserves being identified include cobalt, titanium, gallium, vanadium, tungsten, lithium and some REEs (rare earth elements). Most of these find usage in electronic industry, for lithium ion battery-making, paints and plastics, special alloys and steel-making for military and defence purposes, among others.

Exploration of these blocks are underway by Geological Survey of India (GSI), the Mineral Exploration and Consultancy or by both across states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Madhya Pradesh.

“Some of these blocks will be put up for auction only after determining their economic feasibility and quantity of minerals,” a person aware of the happenings said.

An internal note of the ministry also mentions the same with respect to 13-odd blocks which are being explored by GSI and MECL.

“Economic feasibility for minerals in blocks will be analysed before putting them for auction based on content and quality of minerals,” the note reads.

Economic Viability Exploration

These blocks consist of one comprising cobalt, iron and manganese in Sanyasikoppa in Karnataka; cobalt, nickel and chromium reserves in Vadhakhol – Asoli area of Maharashtra; titanium, gallium and vanadium in parts of Jharkhand.

Cobalt is said to be by-product of mining nickel, copper, silver, manganese and arsenic. Incidentally, there are no reported production of cobalt in India although reserves have been reported across States.

Gallium, on the other hand, occurs as a trace element in bauxite and zinc ores, and is recovered as a by-product by companies like Hindalco (at its Renukoot unit in Uttar Pradesh) and Nalco (Damanjodi alumina refinery in Odisha).

Other blocks cover tungsten resources in Nagpur district of Maharashtra, Chinkipani in Chhattigarh, Udwaria in Rajasthan and Nayakarpatti in Tamil Nadu. Vanadium reserves are expected in Depo in Arunachal Pradesh, Boro Hundong in Assam and Patalganga and east of Sapneri in Bihar.

Per the Mines Ministry officials, tungsten or wolfram tungsten blocks have been finally reported across these three States, with the one in Rajasthan also reportedly containing lithium.

Vanadium reserves have reportedly been identified for the first time although in India lab scale projects are underway to extract the mineral from gasifier slag and alumina refinery slag.

“Royalty rates for extraction of some of these minerals are under discussion; and once approved by the Cabinet, auctions can be looking into,” an official said.

Other blocks

Among the other mineral blocks mentioned are three in Madhya Pradesh consisting of tungsten, tin, base metals in Datia, Shivpuri and Niwari areas. The blocks are identified as Datia – Bijapur, Govindpur and Tarichar Khurd. Vanadium reserve in Chattisgarh’s Bilaspur area and in the Pendra block.

Five exploration projects are being undertaken by the GSI separately and all of them are in the G3 stages.

Determination of vanadium reserves in Arunachal Pradesh, across two blocks – Radhpu block, Lower Subansiri district and in Phop area of the same district are on; while tungsten and lithium reserves (expected to occur together) are being looked into in Rajasthan, across blocks like Balepalyam area in Anantpur district, Rewat Hill and North West extension of Rewat Hill in Nagaur district.