As the global economy becomes increasingly dependent on advanced technologies, two Asian powerhouses—India and China—are making critical moves in securing their futures.
India last week 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 the likes of lithium, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements.
India’s mines secretary, Vivek Bhardwaj, said at the launch of the list: “Many of us may not know that India produces 95 minerals today. But this list gives us a renewed focus on where we need to double our energies, efforts and ensure that there is no disruption in the supply chain.”
The government’s list was drawn up after think tank Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP)—formerly Brookings India, an independent policy research affiliate of the Brookings Institution—presented a study on the criticality of 49 non-fuel minerals, including rare earths, in India.
A mineral’s “criticality” depends on factors such as availability, monopolization, applications in advanced technologies, substitutability, and supply risks, the study said.
The emphasis on these minerals also springs from their indispensability in manufacturing products ranging from mobile phones to electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.
While India is mostly import-dependent for these minerals, the listing signals a renewed focus and an aspiration towards self-reliance.
Speaking on the need for such a list, Rajesh Chadha, senior fellow at CSEP, told Press Insider, “India requires a critical minerals strategy comprising measures aimed at making the country aatma nirbhar (self-reliant) in critical minerals needed for sustainable economic growth and green technologies for climate action, national defense, and affirmative action for protecting the interests of the affected communities and regions.”
“A national critical minerals strategy for India, underpinned by the minerals identified in this study, can help focus on priority concerns in supply risks, domestic policy regimes, and sustainability,” Chadha said.
As the country looks to reduce its vulnerability in supply chains, it may also explore partnerships with nations like Canada, the UK, and Australia, which have similarly identified their lists of critical minerals.
Chadha also spoke on the need to update the list frequently. “The assessment of critical minerals for a jurisdiction needs to be updated every three years to keep pace with changing domestic and global scenarios; this is a good global practice that India needs to follow, beginning with the list of minerals identified in this study. We also need to project the country’s critical mineral requirements for the near future, which would provide early warning signals of critical mineral supply chains that must become more resilient,” Chadha added.
China’s export controls
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Himalayas, China this week implemented export controls on two critical metals – gallium and germanium – vital to the semiconductor, telecommunications, and EV industries.
China, which accounts for about 94% of global gallium production, said the export controls, set to begin on 1 August, aim to protect Chinese national security.
Exporters looking to ship these metals out of the country will need to obtain licenses from the Chinese commerce ministry and provide information regarding the overseas buyers and the details of their applications.
“China’s export controls could have an impact on India’s ambitions to advance its chip-making technologies, as these critical metals are essential in the process,” CSEP’s Chadha said.
The export restrictions are being seen as an escalation in the ongoing trade wars with the US and Europe.
The muscle flexing, as some analysts have termed it, could have repercussions in the tech industry. If these restrictions drag on, prices for the essential components manufactured using these metals could surge.
With countries like China controlling the supply of essential metals, tech companies may need to rethink their supply chains. Dependency on a single source or region can pose risks, especially with geopolitical tensions brewing.
Meanwhile, as China tightens its export policies, it could inadvertently open doors for other countries that have significant capabilities to produce gallium and germanium such as Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Russia to step into the production of these metals.
As nations increasingly recognize the economic and security implications of resources, more policy maneuvers, trade pacts, and geopolitical tactics are likely. In such a scenario, nimble navigation and strategic foresight will be key assets for industries and nations.
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