India’s Mines Ministry would look at the auction of select critical mineral blocks “soon”. While some 100-odd blocks could be on the cards, sources aware of discussions say the first few mineral blocks could cover ones like graphite, nickel, chromium, and even molybdenum.
Clearances for auctions were received in August 2023, which set the ball rolling and was followed by the appointment of SBI Caps as transaction advisors.
“Clearances were obtained in August. The transaction advisor was then roped in and now we are in the final leg to begin auction of some of these critical minerals,” the official told businessline.
Auctions could happen towards the end of the year. But dates are yet to be finalised.
In July this year, sweeping amendments were made to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, which primarily allowed for private investments in select critical minerals, including lithium, the cornerstone for India’s switch to green mobility.
Weeks before the amendments were made, the Mines Ministry first released a list of 30 key critical minerals, including 17 rare earth elements (REEs) and six platinum-group elements (PGE). These, which included ones like antimony, beryllium, bismuth, cobalt and copper, were classified as ‘critical’ because of their economic importance and limited availability in India.
Possible blocks for graphite could come up in the east Indian states, primarily covering Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar.
Graphite is used across industries covering categories like writing instruments, lubricants, refractory, batteries, nuclear reactors and graphene sheets.
Identified nickel blocks in India are also in the eastern region, mostly in Odisha, said sources.
Nickel is another mineral currently not mined in India, and it is now used as a coating item to slow down corrosion. It is used for a variety of purposes, including the production of coins, nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries; and also as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions.
Chromium resources, too, are expected to occur in the eastern region, mostly in regions of iron-ore mining, said officials.
Industrial production of chromium proceeds from chromite ore (mostly, FeCr2O4) to produce ferro-chromium, an iron-chromium alloy. Ferro-chromium is then used to produce alloys such as stainless steel.
Molybdenum block auctions are likely in South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Most molybdenum is used to make alloys. It is used in steel alloys to increase strength, hardness, electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion and wear. The ‘moly steel’ alloys are also used in parts of engines. Estimate global use of the metal is around 35 per cent in structural steel, 25 per cent in stainless steel, 14 per cent in chemicals, 9 per cent in tool and high-speed steel, and 6 per cent in cast iron, among others.ed.
Source: business line