Post signing a development and exploration agreement with Argentina’s CAMYEN for lithium sourcing, India’s Mines Ministry is tapping into Chile eyeing similar acquisition opportunities. A team of Ministry officials will be carrying out due diligence for lithium blocks there soon and discussions in this regard are currently underway.

The Ministry, which has signed a non-disclosure agreement with Chilean state-run company ENAMI is now finalising a team of officials that will visit the LatAm nation to secure offtake agreements, sources aware told businessline.

Acquisition will be for brine-based lithium blocks.

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has been signed with ENAMI, the state-owned company of Chile, for exchange of information and sharing of data in May, the official said adding that KABIL will once again be at the forefront of the discussion.

KABIL’s initiatives

KABIL or Khanij Bidesh India Ltd, a joint venture of NALCO, Hindustan Copper and MECL, is the entity that has been trying to secure critical mineral supplies from overseas. “A team of KABIL will visit shortly for technical due diligence of few brine type lithium blocks of ENAMI,” the official said.

Chile, along with Argentina and Bolivia form the world’s Lithium Triangle, accounting for majority of the resources globally.

KABIL is also exploring possibilities of sourcing these minerals from the other potential countries in Africa and other continents. The state-owned entity and Ministry will also be leveraging various international collaboration and partnerships of the Government of India like Mineral Security Partnership (MSP) as it searches for the mineral, commonly called ‘white gold’.

Lithium, a white alkaline material, forms the cornerstone of India’s switch to sustainable energy options and reduction in carbon footprint. The mineral is a key component in electric vehicles, battery-making, mobile phones and other energy storage solutions.

India currently imports entire requirements, primarily from China. Auctions are underway for two blocks – one each in Jammu and Chhattisgarh.

Indian imports

As per data available with India’s Commerce Ministry, in FY23, lithium imports were worth ₹266 crore, up 62 per cent y-o-y; while lithium oxide and hydroxide imports were ₹553 crore, up 156 per cent y-o-y.

Lithium carbonates imports were ₹179 crore, up 176 per cent.

Lithium ion imports stood at over ₹23,000 crore, up 69 per cent, y-o-y.

Earlier this month, India announced acquisition of five lithium blocks in Argentina – its first ever. Under the agreement, around ₹200 crore will be invested through KABIL for development and exploration of these blocks. And in case of mineral discovery, the state-owned entity will have commercial production rights.