India will start potash mining, for the first time, while the Mines Ministry has put up 18 critical and strategic mineral blocks, valued at ₹30,00,000 crore; for auction in the second tranche.

Apart from potash - used extensively in fertilisers - the other critical minerals put up for auction this time include graphite, glauconite, tungsten, vanadium, REE (rare earth elements), PGE (platinum group of elements), nickel, cobalt and phosphorite.

The minerals find use across sectors like aerospace, mobile phones, spectrographs, clean energy technologies, semi-conductors, lithium-ion batteries, energy storage and rechargeable batteries, among others.

These mineral blocks are spread across eight States, namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.

“The critical blocks are valued at ₹30,00,000 crore and royalty rates of these minerals have been approved. Royalty rates are reasonable at 2- 4 per cent to help generate interest. This would also be the first time potash mining would start in India, benefitting farmers,” Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister for Mines, told businessline.

There are 17 mineral blocks which are put up for grant of composite licence and 1 mineral block for grant of mining lease.

The two potash blocks are in Hanumangarh and Bikaner in Rajasthan and will help check import of the mineral. Exact resource of the mines are yet to be determined.

In another three months, the winners for second tranche will be announced, the Minister added.

Some of these minerals, including lithium, continue to be a cornerstone in India’s transition to green energy usage and reducing carbon footprint. The minerals are mostly imported at present.

In 2023, India came up with its first ever list of 24 critical and strategic minerals.

Tranche 1 bidders

The first round of the first tranche of critical mineral auctions which covered 20 blocks across eight States - included the likes lithium (two blocks), copper, nickel, glauconite, graphite and manganese, molybdenum, among others - have been completed.

According to Joshi, the first round saw 180 plus enquiries from interested bidders, and 56 bids being placed.

Some of the names who placed bids include Vedanta, Ola Electric, Coal India, Neyveli Lignite, Jindal Power, Shree Cement, Dalmia Group, Rungta’s among others.

“By mid-April, we should announce the winners for first tranche,” he said.