Jammu, Nov 28: Lithium is among critical and strategic minerals, twenty blocks of which will go under the hammer as part of the first-ever tranche auction to be launched by the Ministry of Mines tomorrow i.e., November 29.
As per the Ministry, the Union Minister of Coal, Mines and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi, as the chief guest, will launch “the first ever critical minerals auction process.”
Twenty blocks of critical and strategic minerals being auctioned are spread across the country. These will also include the Lithium deposits discovered in Reasi district of J&K earlier this year.
After it (Lithium) was categorised as a strategic mineral, along with 23 other minerals, through an amendment by the Centre, the J&K government had provided all the required data related to deposits in Reasi to the Government of India to pave the way for the auction.
Mining Secretary Dr Rashmi Singh, while responding to Greater Kashmir queries with regard to the formalities, preceding the auction, completed by the J&K government, said, “See, right now the auction is being done by the Ministry (of Mines). As regards the required formalities, these pertained to the area mapping in terms of habitation; demarcation of the entire area etc. and that process was completed by the district administration with the support of our team of the J&K Geology and Mining Department. That data was to be provided to the Government of India. Prior to it, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had
already done an extensive study.”
“The required data was provided to the Government of India around a month back,” J&K Mining Secretary said.
In response to a query pertaining to the post auction process, Dr Singh said, “Ultimately, all revenue comes to the state or UT concerned; here (in case of Lithium), it will come to J&K.”
Earlier this year, the Geological Survey of India (GSI), after its ‘preliminary exploration’, had confirmed an inferred resource (G3) of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium ore in Salal-Haimna areas of Reasi district in Jammu region.
The data furnished by the Reasi district administration mentions that Lithium deposits are spread in an area of 18913 Kanals and 17 Marlas, out of which 3929 Kanals include private land; 269 Kanals and 7 Marlas State land and 14715 Kanals and 10 Marlas forest land. With regard to habitation, there are 326 families and 431 structures, including 418 residential structures.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Mining spokesperson said that the commencement of sale of tender documents would start from November 29, 2023. “Details of the mineral blocks, auction terms, timelines etc. can be accessed on MSTC auction platform from 6 pm on November 29, 2023. The auction shall be held online through a transparent two stage ascending forward auction process. The eligible bidder shall be selected based on the highest percentage of the value of mineral despatched quoted by them,” it was stated.
The Ministry of Mines has described the “first-ever tranche auction” as a landmark initiative that will boost the country’s economy, enhance national security and support India’s transition to a clean energy future.
“Critical minerals are essential for our country’s economic development and national security. The lack of availability of these minerals or concentration of their extraction or processing in a few countries may lead to supply chain vulnerabilities. The future global economy will be underpinned by technologies that depend on minerals such as Lithium, Graphite, Cobalt, Titanium and Rare Earth Elements (REE),” the officials said.
They stated that India had committed to achieve 50 percent of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030. “Such ambitious plan for energy transition is set to drive the demand for electric cars, wind and solar energy projects and battery storage systems thereby increasing the demand for these critical minerals. Critical and strategic minerals are in high demand and the same is usually met by imports. Critical minerals cater to the needs of sectors like renewable energy, defence, agriculture, pharmaceutical, high-tech electronics, telecommunications, transport, creation of gigafactories etc,” they said.
“Recently, through an amendment in the MMDR Act on August 17, 2023, 24 minerals, including Lithium were notified as ‘Critical and Strategic minerals’. The amendment confers the power to grant mineral concession of these minerals to the central government so that the central government can prioritise auction of these minerals looking at the requirements of the country. The revenue generated from these auctions shall accrue to state governments,” it was stated.
It was further pointed out that subsequently, royalty rates of critical minerals were rationalized to encourage more participation in auctions. “The government had specified royalty rates for Platinum Group of Metals (PGM) at 4 percent, Molybdenum at 7.5 percent, Glauconite and Potash at 2.5percent in March, 2022. On October 12, 2023 the government specified royalty rates for Lithium at 3 percent, Niobium at 3 percent and Rare Earth Elements at 1 percent,” the officials said.
In August this year, the Parliament had passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023 providing for the omission of six minerals, including Lithium from the list of 12 atomic minerals.
Reforms brought in through amendments pertained to omission of 6 minerals from the list of 12 atomic minerals specified in Part-B of the First Schedule of the Act, namely, Lithium bearing minerals; Titanium bearing minerals and ores, Beryl and other beryllium bearing minerals; Niobium and Tantalum bearing minerals and Zirconium-bearing minerals.
They empowered the central government to exclusively auction mineral concessions for critical minerals specified in Part D of the First Schedule of the Act and revenue from these auctions would accrue to the concerned state government.