The Centre has engaged consultants to identify assets and companies in critical minerals sector in Australia and provide necessary support to Indian firms in public and private sector to acquire those assets.

According to Vivek Bharadwaj, Secretary, Ministry of Mines, the Indian and Australian governments are working together to identify companies in critical minerals sector and is hopeful of zeroing in on a few in the next couple of months.

“We have commissioned consultants. The government of India and Australia are both working together to identify companies in critical minerals industry in the next two months. We are willing to offer these opportunities to private companies also after having done the necessary due diligence on our behalf,” Bharadwaj told newspersons on the sidelines of the Global Mining Summit (GMS) and International Mining Machinery Exhibition (IMME) organised by CII in partnership with Ministry of Mines and Coal here on Thursday.

Samples of rare earth minerals from left: Cerium oxide, Bastnaesite, Neodymium oxide and Lanthanum carbonate at Molycorp’s Mountain Pass Rare Earth facility in Mountain Pass, California

Samples of rare earth minerals from left: Cerium oxide, Bastnaesite, Neodymium oxide and Lanthanum carbonate at Molycorp’s Mountain Pass Rare Earth facility in Mountain Pass, California | Photo Credit: Reuters

The government is also planning to send a team of geologists to look for opportunities in Argentina by this month end. There are two varieties of lithium available in Argentina; the team of geologists could go and find out the feasibility of the assets.

“There are companies operating at different levels (in Australia) – one could be in exploration, one could be in early stages of finding minerals and companies which have offtake agreements,” he said highlighting the possibility of acquiring these to enhance India’s critical mineral resources base.

West Bengal’s policy for mining minor minerals

To overcome land acquisition hurdles in mining minor minerals and to curb illegal mining, the West Bengal government has come out with a new policy allowing mining of minor minerals such as blackstone, limestone and quartz, among others on private plots.

According to Shashi Panja, Minister for Industries, commerce and enterprises, the state government will offer private mining license to those holding land. The policy, when implemented, could help enrich government coffers with license fees and royalty.

“The state Cabinet has approved a policy for mining licenses on private land. The license will be handed over to the land owner and all the onus will be on him for clearances and responsible mining. This policy will be applicable only for minor minerals. The regulations will be ready by December,” a senior state government official said.

Birbhum, West Burdwan, Purulia, West Midnapore, and Bankura are some of the districts in the State where mining of minor minerals holds a lot of potential.

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