NEW DELHI (Reuters/Web Desk): India will auction the lithium reserves found in Occupied Kashmir over the next few weeks, Reuters reported while a government source with close knowledge of the matter on Monday.
India, which has been exploring ways to secure supplies of lithium, a critical raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries, in February found its first lithium deposits in the occupied territory with estimated reserves of 5.9 million tonnes.
“The auction will happen soon and some overseas miners have shown interest,” the source said, declining to be identified because of the sensitive nature of discussions.
The federal mines ministry did not immediately reply to a Reuters email seeking comments.
The source also said that KABIL, a state-owned joint venture formed to scout for minerals overseas, was in the “final stages” to secure a few lithium blocks in Argentina.
Discussions with the Chilean government were also underway to secure lithium blocks although talks were still in early stages, the source added.
KABIL, short for Khanij Bidesh India Ltd, was formed in August 2019 to identify, acquire, develop and process strategic minerals overseas for use in India.
India, among the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, has been pursuing overseas pacts to secure key minerals in resource-rich countries such as Australia, Argentina and Chile.
Earlier in August, the Indian parliament had passed a law allowing the government to auction and mine its newly-discovered reserves of lithium, among other minerals, increasing the mining of the critical raw material for electric vehicle batteries.
Under the law, lithium, along with other minerals was removed from a previous list of atomic minerals, which prevented it from being auctioned to and mined by private companies.
“Upon removal of these minerals from the list of atomic minerals, exploration and mining of these minerals will be open to private sector,” a government statement said.
As a result, exploration and mining of these minerals is expected to increase significantly in the country,” the statement said.
Other minerals that will now be open for mining and auction include titanium, beryl, niobium and zirconium, the statement said.
These minerals were earlier only allowed to be mined by state-run companies, which meant that they were mined in limited quantities, and the involvement of private companies could be a ‘force multiplier’, the statement said.
“There is a need to vigorously increase exploration and production of the minerals proposed to be removed from the list of atomic minerals to meet the growing demands of the country,” the statement said.