India’s Union cabinet, the executive decision-making body of the government, has approved the commercial mining of lithium and five other key minerals, media reported on Thursday.
The government’s approval to the amendments in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act will lift a ban on the commercial mining of beryllium, titanium, niobium, tantalum and zirconium, in addition to lithium.
Most of the country’s lithium needs is met by imports from Chile, Russia and China, while beryllium is mostly imported from Russia, the Netherlands and UK.
Addressing the significance and challenges of mining critical minerals in India, Suman Bery, vice-chairman of government think tank NITI Aayog, said: “India’s critical minerals is a slow business, but with overwhelming results. It is an ongoing train, and if we do not fix issues, we will miss it. Though extraction and processing is challenging, we need to eradicate the barriers to make good use of the opportunity.”
Bery was speaking at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The Geological Survey of India had announced the discovery of significant reserves of lithium in February this year.
India earlier this month identified a preliminary list of 30 critical minerals that it considers essential for economic development and national security.
The list, which India says will be revisited periodically, includes lithium, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements.
“Recognizing the critical minerals is important for sustainable development over the long run, and so is exploring ways of integrating them with supply chains. It is a multidisciplinary approach which needs recognition,” Rajesh Chadha, senior fellow at think tank Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), said at the event, while emphasizing on the strategic importance of critical minerals.
Highlighting the foreign policy implications and the potential role of critical minerals in net-zero transition, Rakesh Mohan, president emeritus and distinguished fellow at CSEP, said, “Net-zero transition is possible only if we work on critical minerals. It will have foreign policy implications on India and it is going to be the new oil in future.”
“Our strategy should be different from China and the US, as is our infrastructure and public transport requirements. We need to treat critical minerals as essential elements besides we need to solve issues pertaining to mining, investments and FDI,” Mohan added.
Sharing his thoughts on India’s journey towards self-sufficiency at the same event, former foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said, “India’s path to net-zero transition goes through critical minerals. It is a long steep hill, but we will have to climb it to become Aatma Nirbar (self-sufficient).”
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