On 28th June, Union Minister of Coal, Mines & Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Pralhad Joshi, unveiled a significant report titled “Critical Minerals for India.” This report is the first of its kind in the country and was prepared by a team of experts appointed by the Ministry of Mines. The report identifies a comprehensive list of critical minerals that are essential for various sectors such as defense, agriculture, energy, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.
Shri Joshi highlighted that this is a remarkable achievement for India as it is the first time the country has compiled such a comprehensive list of critical minerals. He emphasized that the report plays a crucial role in India’s vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) by ensuring a secure and sustainable supply of minerals for the nation’s development and growth.
Critical Minerals for India
What are critical minerals?
Critical minerals play a crucial role in both economic development and national security. Their availability and accessibility are essential for various sectors and technologies that drive the global economy. Minerals like lithium, graphite, cobalt, titanium, and rare earth elements are particularly important for high-tech electronics, telecommunications, transportation, defense, and renewable energy technologies.
The concentration of extraction or processing of these minerals in a few locations can create vulnerabilities in the supply chain and even disrupt the availability of these resources. As countries worldwide commit to achieving “Net Zero” emissions, the demand for these critical minerals will further increase.
The criticality of a mineral can change over time as supply and demand shift. For example, lithium is becoming increasingly critical as it is used in batteries for electric vehicles.
Given the significance of these minerals, it has become necessary to identify and develop value chains for them in our country. By recognizing their importance and strategically focusing on their exploration, extraction, and processing, we can ensure a secure and sustainable supply of critical minerals that will support economic growth and the transition to a low-carbon emissions economy.
Report of the Committee on Identification of Critical Minerals
In order to identify the list of critical minerals essential for our country, the Ministry of Mines formed a committee consisting of seven members. The committee, chaired by the Joint Secretary (Policy) of the Ministry of Mines, was established through an official order on November 1, 2022, with the reference number 11/1/2022-IC.
The committee conducted several deliberations among its members and devised a three-stage assessment process to determine the critical minerals. This comprehensive approach ensured a thorough evaluation and selection of minerals based on their importance and impact on various sectors of the economy.
By following this structured assessment methodology, the committee aimed to create an accurate and reliable list of critical minerals that are crucial for our country’s development and growth.
First Stage of the Assessment
In the initial stage of assessment, the committee focused on studying critical minerals strategies implemented by various countries. This helped determine the parameters for assessing the criticality of minerals and enabled the identification of a set of minerals as critical.
- A total of 69 elements/minerals were considered for the study, based on their classification as critical by major global economies like Australia, USA, Canada, UK, Japan, and South Korea.
- Domestic initiatives within India were also given significant consideration during this stage of evaluation.
- To conduct this study, the committee relied on the research and findings from reputable institutions such as the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), which is a not-for-profit, public policy think tank, and the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), an independent and non-partisan policy research institution.
These studies provided valuable insights into the importance and criticality of different minerals and helped in the formulation of the final list of critical minerals for India.
Second Stage of the Assessment
In the second stage of assessment, the committee conducted an inter-ministerial consultation to identify minerals that are critical to various sectors.
- A meeting was held with representatives from key ministries and organizations including the Ministry of Power (Central Electricity Authority), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers (Department of Fertilizers), Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), and IREL (India) Limited.
- During the consultation, representatives from these ministries and organizations provided their inputs and feedback on minerals that are critical to their respective sectors.
- Valuable comments and suggestions were received from the Ministry of Power, Department of Atomic Energy, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Department of Fertilizers, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Pharmaceuticals, and NITI Aayog.
This collaborative process helped in the identification of a list of minerals that are critical for different sectors, ensuring that diverse perspectives and sector-specific requirements were taken into account.
Third Stage of the Assessment
During the third stage of assessment, the committee aimed to develop an empirical formula for identifying the list of critical minerals.
- To achieve this, they held a meeting with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and had extensive deliberations with the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), which adopted the European Union (EU) methodology for deriving a list of critical minerals.
- The EU methodology takes into consideration two key factors: economic importance and supply risk.
- In line with this approach, the committee incorporated essential parameters such as disruption potential, substitutability, cross-cutting usages across different sectors, import reliance, recycling rates, and more.
- However, the committee acknowledges the need for a detailed statistical exercise to precisely compute various factors such as the substitutability index, minerals cross-cutting index, import reliance, and others.
In the present exercise, the committee compared the list of critical minerals derived by CSEP (based on the EU methodology) with its own set of minerals obtained through the two-stage assessment process mentioned earlier. As a result, the committee identified elements/minerals that demonstrated high economic importance, high supply risk, or both parameters being high as critical minerals. This rigorous process ensured that the selected minerals truly meet the criteria of criticality as defined by the committee.
Following the comprehensive three-stage assessment process and taking into account important parameters such as the country’s resource/reserve position, production, import dependency, and their significance for future technologies and clean energy, the Committee has identified a set of 30 critical minerals.
These minerals are of crucial importance for various sectors and industries. The list includes Antimony, Beryllium, Bismuth, Cobalt, Copper, Gallium, Germanium, Graphite, Hafnium, Indium, Lithium, Molybdenum, Niobium, Nickel, Platinum Group Elements (PGE), Phosphorus, Potash, Rare Earth Elements (REE), Rhenium, Silicon, Strontium, Tantalum, Tellurium, Tin, Titanium, Tungsten, Vanadium, Zirconium, Selenium, and Cadmium.
These minerals play a significant role in supporting the growth and development of the country’s economy, technology advancements, and the transition towards a cleaner and sustainable future.
Additionally, the Committee has proposed the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Critical Minerals (CECM) within the Ministry of Mines. The CECM will serve as a dedicated institution responsible for updating and maintaining the list of critical minerals specific to India. It will also formulate and implement the critical mineral strategy, ensuring regular updates as needed. The CECM will play a pivotal role in developing and strengthening the value chain for critical minerals in the country, undertaking various functions aimed at promoting their sustainable extraction, processing, and utilization.
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Critical Minerals – FAQs
What are critical minerals?
Critical minerals are those that are essential for the functioning of modern technologies, economies, or national security, and have a supply chain at risk of disruption. They are often used in high-tech industries, such as electronics, telecommunications, and defense.
What are the implications of critical mineral scarcity?
The scarcity of critical minerals could have a number of implications, including:
Increased costs for businesses and consumers.
Disruptions to supply chains.
Constraints on the development of new technologies.
What are the challenges in securing a supply of critical minerals?
There are a number of challenges in securing a supply of critical minerals, including:
The concentration of reserves in a few countries.
The difficulty of extracting and processing the minerals.
The environmental impacts of mining.
The political risks associated with mining.