India is working on acquiring mines of strategic minerals such as lithium and cobalt in producing countries like Australia, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. The government’s move is aimed at ensuring a committed supply of raw materials especially for renewable energy (RE) and e-mobility sectors.

The Mines Ministry has created a joint venture (JV) company — Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) — with participating interest from National Aluminium Company (NALCO), Hindustan Copper (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corporation (MECL). The equity participation is 40:30:30, respectively.

To ensure India’s mineral security as well as to attain self-reliance in the area of critical and strategic minerals, KABIL is mandated to identify and acquire overseas mineral assets of critical and strategic nature such as Lithium, Cobalt etc, the ministry said in a statement.

Catering to requirements

This initiative, aimed at giving further fillip to Atmanirbhar Bharat, will cater to the requirements of crucial sectors such as e-mobility, renewable energy, medicine, aerospace, aviation among others, it added.

“Based on a commissioned study and selection criteria, select source countries have been shortlisted for exploring possibilities of mineral asset acquisition abroad. So far, engagement of KABIL is under way with source countries like Australia, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile which are endowed with cited critical and strategic minerals,” the ministry informed.

The primary interface has been the respective Embassies and Missions of India in those countries for sharing of information primarily with State-owned organisations for taking up due diligence and investment decisions with respect to prospective mineral acreages.

In 2020, KABIL signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with non-disclosure agreement with three State-owned Argentinian organisations in July, September and December for the purpose of information sharing regarding prospective mineral acreages.

In the country, the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) conducted preliminary surveys on surface and limited subsurface exploration, which revealed presence of Lithium resources of 1,600 tonnes (inferred category) in the pegmatites of Marlagalla–Allapatna area in Mandya district of Karnataka.