Coal India, NMDC exploring lithium mines overseas

Evaporation ponds in northern Chile. (Image by: freedom_wanted | AdobeStock.)

State-run miners Coal India and NMDC are exploring lithium mines in Chile and Australia, Secretary of Mines V.L. Kantha Rao said on Wednesday.

The Indian mines ministry is also encouraging other state-owned companies, such as ONGC Videsh, to scout for critical minerals overseas, Rao told reporters at the sidelines of an industry conference in New Delhi.

“We are looking at four state-owned companies to become active,” he said.

Last June, NMDC’s unit Legacy Iron Ore had signed a lithium exploration pact with Australia’s Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd.

India will additionally take a delegation to Zambia in June, with executives from the Tata Group and Vedanta, the secretary said. The two governments will discuss the joint exploration of critical minerals such as lithium.

A separate delegation will head to Congo, he added.

India is analysing whether an existing trade pact with Chile can be expanded to include critical minerals for government access, Rao said, as well as studying trade routes with Mongolia to explore copper and coal assets there.

“Mongolia has good coal, copper assets, and some of the companies have shown interest,” he said, adding that a panel had been formed to study the trade routes.

The government is studying Bolivia as well for critical minerals and Argentina for more lithium blocks, he said.

Domestically, India is likely to conduct an auction for 10 offshore minerals blocks in two to three months and a fourth tranche of critical minerals auction of about 20 blocks by June-end, Rao said.

The government will also announce the auction results of the first tranche of critical minerals by June 15, he said.

(By Neha Arora; Editing by Sonia Cheema)


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