India is close to finalising five lithium blocks in Argentina and is likely to sign an agreement “over the next few days”. Agreements are to be signed through KABIL, the State-owned joint venture formed to scout for minerals overseas.
An official in the Mines Ministry, with direct knowledge of the matter, told businessline that groundwork has been carried out and things are in the final stages now.
KABIL is a joint venture between the National Aluminium Company (NALCO), Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd. (MECL), and Hindustan Copper Ltd. (HCL). It was formed for the identification, acquisition, development, and processing of strategic minerals overseas for use in India.
India, among the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, has been pursuing overseas pacts to secure key minerals in resource-rich countries such as Australia, Argentina, and Chile.
Pact with Argentina
“KABIL is close to making acquisitions in Argentina and will shortly sign an agreement to secure a few lithium blocks, most probably five or so. May be another month or so before the details are locked in,” the official said.
According to the official, Argentina has in principle agreed to allot lithium blocks for exploration to India, and details of the lease are being worked on. Mines could be procured via direct acquisition, long-term revenue sharing, or partnership pacts.
Argentina, together with Chile and Bolivia, form the so-called “Lithium Triangle” and is currently the fourth largest producer. It has the world’s third-largest lithium reserve.
India imports all major components that go into lithium-ion cell manufacturing. The country’s lithium-ion import bill for FY23 was ₹23,171 crore.
In FY22, imports for lithium-ion were ₹13,673.15 crore.
Hunt for minerals
Ministry officials said KABIL will continue to be the front for such overseas pacts that include getting into agreements with governments overseas.
Apart from Argentina, KABIL is exploring tie-ups and acquisition opportunities for lithium across other LATAM nations like Chile and Brazil. It is also open to other alternate structures like partnerships, long-term leasing of mines or lithium blocks, or investment in these mines.
In Australia, KABIL is said to have entered into MoUs for the exploration of two lithium blocks and three cobalt blocks.
“Lithium, copper, and cobalt are among some of the key minerals that are being tapped at the moment,” another official said.