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India house amends mining rules to open lithium to private firms

28th July 2023

By: Bloomberg

  

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India’s lower house of parliament approved changes to the country’s mining rules to boost exploration, including allowing private miners to search for some critical minerals like lithium.

The main changes to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, last amended in 2021, would include introduction of exploration licenses for deep-seated and critical minerals and the removal of lithium-bearing minerals and five other atomic minerals from a restricted list, opening up the segment to private miners.

The bill has to be approved by parliament’s upper house and India’s president before it becomes a law.

The South Asian nation is seeking to shore up its minerals supply to cut reliance on imports and fulfill Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s net zero ambitions. The government is also looking to build local supplies of critical metals such as lithium — a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage — as the world pivots away from gasoline-fueled vehicles.

“The mineral sector requires certain more reforms particularly for increasing exploration and mining of critical minerals that are essential for economic development and national security in the country,” the text of the new bill said. The lack of availability of these minerals may lead to supply chain vulnerabilities and disruptions, according to the bill.

The latest modification seeks to remove lithium-bearing minerals, beryllium, titanium-bearing minerals, niobium, tantallium and zirconium from the list of atomic minerals and gives the federal government power to auction concessions for these items. Previously only state-run companies could obtain licenses to mine atomic minerals.

The changes will be key for auctioning of recent lithium blocks identified in the country in the regions of Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka.

Edited by Bloomberg

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