India to utilize the US-led Minerals Security Partnership to assist state-owned enterprises in acquiring crucial mineral assets overseas.

The Union Ministry of Mines has proposed sharing critical mineral block proposals received from partner countries within the US-led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) with central public sector undertakings (PSUs) to facilitate their acquisition of critical mineral assets abroad.

During a meeting held on October 30, 2023, the ministry suggested that PSUs provide clear financial mandates to relevant subsidiaries to streamline the acquisition process. Representatives from PSUs such as Coal India Limited, NLC India Ltd, and NTPC Ltd, present at the meeting, expressed interest in securing lithium, cobalt, and graphite assets overseas.

VL Kantha Rao, Secretary of the Ministry of Mines, assured support to PSUs in acquiring critical mineral assets abroad, including circulating details of block proposals received through the MSP, as per meeting minutes accessed by The Indian Express via RTI. India joined the MSP in June 2023, aiming to catalyze investment in global critical mineral supply chains. The MSP involves thirteen countries including the UK, Australia, France, Germany, and the European Union, collaborating to foster critical minerals cooperation.

Kantha Rao also recommended empowering relevant subsidiaries financially to facilitate timely execution upon receiving viable proposals. He cited examples such as ONGC Videsh Limited and NTPC Mining Limited. Additionally, M. Nagaraju, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Coal, informed about the interest of PSUs like Coal India Limited and NLC India in acquiring critical mineral blocks overseas.

Asheesh Kumar, General Manager at CIL, mentioned the PSU’s interest in securing lithium and cobalt blocks in Australia, and its focus on Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina for critical mineral assets. NTPC, through its subsidiary NTPC Mining Limited, aims to acquire lithium, cobalt, graphite, and high-purity limestone assets abroad. Representatives from Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) expressed interest in acquiring coking coal, limestone, and iron ore assets overseas for captive use.

Kantha Rao recommended SAIL to explore investments in critical minerals abroad within the Steel Ministry. PSUs were also advised to engage international consultants for in-depth studies and maintain communication with Indian missions abroad for smooth acquisition of overseas projects.

CIL announced plans to enter critical mineral mining in India, starting with the exploration of a lithium block. In 2023, CIL amended its Memorandum of Association to include non-ferrous and critical minerals. NLC India had expressed interest in participating in the auction of twenty critical mineral blocks launched by the Ministry of Mines in November 2023.

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