India to auction of 20 mineral blocks today, J&K's lithium may figure in list

TNN Bureau. Updated: 11/29/2023 2:19:03 AM Front Page

Jammu: The Union ministry of mines Wednesday will conduct the first-ever auction of 20 critical and strategic mineral blocks including those of lithium, potash, graphite and molybdenum.
From mobile phones to electric vehicles, solar panels, semiconductors and wind turbines, all modern technologies are dependent on critical minerals such as lithium, graphite, cobalt, thalium and rare earth elements.
Such minerals are essential not only in high-tech electronics and telecommunications, but also in transport and defence.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the mines ministry said that the 20 blocks of critical minerals are located across the country. The first tranche auction will be launched Wednesday by Union mines minister Prahlad Joshi, the ministry said.
“We will issue the auction notice inviting bids tomorrow. The auction will be carried out in a two-stage process and is likely to be completed within a month,” a ministry official, who did not want to be named, said.
Earlier, state governments used to auction mineral blocks. But the amendments to
to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 in August 2023 gave the Centre the power to auction critical minerals.
The amendments also paved the way for commercial mining of six critical minerals — lithium, beryllium, niobium, tantalum, titanium and zirconium — and deep-seated minerals like gold, silver, and copper. Earlier, only government agencies were allowed to explore and mine these minerals.
“The auction will be carried out in a two-stage process and is likely to be completed within a month,” a ministry official said.
The ministry, however, is yet to disclose the location of the 20 mineral blocks. The 5.9 milllion tonne of lithium reserve that the Geological Survey of India had discovered in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir in February could also be on the auction list, sources in the mines ministry said.
The ministry had on several occasions in the last few moths said that it plans to auction the J&K lithium reserve by December.
Last month, the Centre approved royalty rates of three per cent each for lithium and niobium and one per cent for Rare Earth Elements (REEs).
Among the other significant steps that the government took in the critical mineral sector this year was the release of a comprehensive list of 30 critical minerals necessary for economic development and national security in June.
The ministry has identified 30 critical minerals that it considers essential for economic development and national security of the country. These include antimony, beryllium, bismuth, cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, indium, lithium, molybdenum, niobium, nickel, phosphorous, potash, titanium, tungsten and rare earth elements.

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