With the development of electronic manufacturing and electric vehicles (EVs), India, which heavily relies on imported raw materials, has recently started taking corrective measures through initiatives integrating efforts from private enterprises and academia, aiming for self-reliance in raw materials supplies, a move aligning with the US goal of establishing resilient supply chains independent of China.
In early November, the Ministry of Mines of India announced to encourage R&D activities in critical metals, rare earths, and deep-seated minerals and leverage high-tech solutions, such as AI and IoT, for exploration, prospecting, and mining.
According to the document, the topics for directed R&D activities include critical metals (gallium, niobium, tantalum, nickel, lithium, tungsten, etc), rare earth elements, recycling and circular economy, energy efficiency, and new materials and processes.
The document stated that projects are invited from academic institutions, universities, national institutes, and R&D institutions recognized by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the government of India, for up to three years duration on the following topics of directed R&D and in areas that have a direct bearing on the mineral sector, applied and sustainable aspect of mining and industrial applications.
In late June, India joined the US-led Mineral Security Partnership, consisting of 14 countries and aiming for public and private investments in the global key minerals supply chain, which may include cobalt, nickel, lithium, and rare earth elements.
Later in August, India amended the Mines and Minerals Act 1597, allowing allotment of exploration licenses for deep-seated minerals with strategic implications. With the liberalization, private entities in India can participate in the full range of exploration activities from reconnaissance to prospecting.
Fortune India reported that India's exploration has been skewed towards surface mass minerals such as iron ore, coal, limestone, and bauxite, with little focus on deep-seated minerals such as REE, battery minerals, gold, and diamonds.
Subraknant Panda, managing director of Indian Metal and Ferro Alloys, told Fortune India that India possesses 95 minerals, encompassing metallic, atomic, and non-metallic minor minerals. Yet, regarding harnessing new energy minerals like battery minerals and rare earths, there's considerable ground to cover. He emphasized the imminent rise in demand as India advances technologically, underscoring the necessity of devising a long-term strategy to guarantee an uninterrupted supply.
According to the New Age Energy Mineral report released by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, India is almost 100% import-dependent on lithium, nickel, cobalt, vanadium, niobium, germanium, rhenium, beryllium, tantalum, and strontium, most critical for electronics and EV battery manufacturing.
World mineral supply
Leader in reserves
Leader in processing or value addition
Chile, Australia, Argentina
China, Chile, Argentina
Australia, Indonesia, Brazil
China, Indonesia, Japan
Congo, Australia, Cuba
China, Finland, Belgium
China, Vietnam, Brazil
China, US, Australia
Source: FICCI, May 2023