India will tap into Congo for critical mineral access, mostly copper and cobalt. A draft MoU has been shared with Democratic Republic of Congo officials and a final agreement is expected in “another three months or so.” The MoU will allow India to conduct mineral exploration and subsequent commercial off-take in case of successful finds.

According to VL Kantha Rao, Secretary, Union Ministry of Mines, the G2G (government-tog-government) MoU will be finalised (much on the lines of what was done for lithium blocks of Argentina).

“Around June we should be signing the final MoU with Congo. The draft has been shared,” he told businessline. In all likelihood the MoU signing will take place on the sidelines of an international conference on mining being organised in the African nation.

Copper and cobalt have been identified as critical minerals by the Indian government. Copper, a base metal, is used in power cables, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and solar panels, and it is the key material for energy transition. Because of its widespread usage, copper demand, including its price movement, is a key indicator of economic health.

Cobalt on the other hand is a key car battery-making metal (used to make lithium-ion batteries) ,hwith Congo being the largest supplier globally.

The second largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, Congo, is also among the key copper miners.

On-going discussions

Representatives from Democratic Republic of Congo had met Mines Ministry officials last week seeking “deeper collaboration”.

At the meeting, Indian officials expressed interest in pursuing G2G agreements to secure copper and cobalt mines. They also expressed interest in carrying out exploration activities, which include mapping minerals, surveying the ground from air or surface, testing soil samples, and drilling. In case of successful finds and locating the deposits, commercial offtake will happen.

Officials have cited the instance of India acquiring five lithium blocks in Argentina and investing close to ₹200 crore over the next five years through the CPSE, KABIL (Khanij Bidesh India Ltd).

“Similar agreements, which would be G2G have been sought. And the pitch was for investment through CPSEs, private Indian companies already have a presence there,” an official said.

Lithium in Chile

Another official said India is also looking to secure lithium from Chile, another South American nation and a key supplier of the white alkaline resource. Chile, along with Argentina and Bolivia forms the world’s Lithium Triangle, accounting for the majority of the resources globally.

Lithium is a key component in EVs, battery-making, mobile phones and other energy storage solutions.

Reportedly, Coal India has expressed interest to explore opportunities there.

Incidentally, the Mines Ministry had previously signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with ENAMI, a state-owned company, to exchange information and data-sharing.

According to the official, a delegation of 22 people will visit Chile between April 14 and April 17 to attend a mining conference there. The delegation will include representatives from the Mines and Coal ministries, CSIR Labs, officials from Hindalco and Coal India and private mining companies.

“There will be G2G meetings too where the CPSEs will participate. Coal India right now is at the forefront of the discussions,” the official said.