India's Critical Mineral Imports Threaten Energy Security
India's Critical Mineral Imports Threaten Energy Security
POWER & RENEWABLE ENERGY

India's Critical Mineral Imports Threaten Energy Security

India's reliance on imports for essential minerals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel poses a significant threat to its energy security and its net zero commitments by 2070, according to a recent report by the rating agency ICRA. The nation's domestic supplies of these critical minerals are of inferior quality and insufficient quantity compared to global standards, jeopardizing efforts to reduce import dependency in the near future.

ICRA's series on critical minerals reveals that despite the auction of 38 mineral blocks to boost domestic production, meaningful benefits are unlikely to be realized this decade. The country remains susceptible to potential supply shocks, especially given the global concentration of critical mineral deposits and China's dominance in processing and refining these materials.

Girishkumar Kadam, Senior Vice-President & Group Head, Corporate Sector Ratings at ICRA, highlighted that China controls 65%-100% of the global capacity for making battery-grade lithium, cobalt, manganese, and graphite. This monopoly further exacerbates India's vulnerabilities.

In response, the Government of India has initiated the auctioning of exploration licenses to attract specialized overseas mining companies. This strategy aims to tap into the expertise needed for exploring deep-seated minerals, a riskier endeavor compared to surface or bulk minerals.

The urgency to ramp up domestic production is fueled by the shift in energy systems from increasing energy density to increasing mineral intensity, crucial for the proliferation of green technologies like electric vehicles and renewable energy. However, Kadam noted that the commercialization of the currently auctioned domestic blocks is unlikely to be fully realized before 2030.

To mitigate its dependency, India is pursuing international acquisitions of critical mineral assets in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Australia, Zambia, and Congo. Domestically, there is a push to incentivize the development of critical mineral processing technologies, such as beneficiation and leaching.

The government is auctioning two lithium blocks in Jammu & Kashmir, which contain clay deposits. While established technologies exist for extracting lithium from hard-rock and brine deposits, methods for clay extraction remain unproven globally, presenting additional challenges.

India's strategy also includes joining the US-led Mineral Security Partnership and enhancing domestic policies like the Battery Waste Management Rules to focus on circular supply chains. However, ICRA warns that the infrastructure necessary to meet the government's ambitious critical mineral recycling targets is still underdeveloped.

This comprehensive approach underscores the critical need for India to secure a stable supply of essential minerals to support its green technology ambitions and energy security.

India's reliance on imports for essential minerals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel poses a significant threat to its energy security and its net zero commitments by 2070, according to a recent report by the rating agency ICRA. The nation's domestic supplies of these critical minerals are of inferior quality and insufficient quantity compared to global standards, jeopardizing efforts to reduce import dependency in the near future. ICRA's series on critical minerals reveals that despite the auction of 38 mineral blocks to boost domestic production, meaningful benefits are unlikely to be realized this decade. The country remains susceptible to potential supply shocks, especially given the global concentration of critical mineral deposits and China's dominance in processing and refining these materials. Girishkumar Kadam, Senior Vice-President & Group Head, Corporate Sector Ratings at ICRA, highlighted that China controls 65%-100% of the global capacity for making battery-grade lithium, cobalt, manganese, and graphite. This monopoly further exacerbates India's vulnerabilities. In response, the Government of India has initiated the auctioning of exploration licenses to attract specialized overseas mining companies. This strategy aims to tap into the expertise needed for exploring deep-seated minerals, a riskier endeavor compared to surface or bulk minerals. The urgency to ramp up domestic production is fueled by the shift in energy systems from increasing energy density to increasing mineral intensity, crucial for the proliferation of green technologies like electric vehicles and renewable energy. However, Kadam noted that the commercialization of the currently auctioned domestic blocks is unlikely to be fully realized before 2030. To mitigate its dependency, India is pursuing international acquisitions of critical mineral assets in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Australia, Zambia, and Congo. Domestically, there is a push to incentivize the development of critical mineral processing technologies, such as beneficiation and leaching. The government is auctioning two lithium blocks in Jammu & Kashmir, which contain clay deposits. While established technologies exist for extracting lithium from hard-rock and brine deposits, methods for clay extraction remain unproven globally, presenting additional challenges. India's strategy also includes joining the US-led Mineral Security Partnership and enhancing domestic policies like the Battery Waste Management Rules to focus on circular supply chains. However, ICRA warns that the infrastructure necessary to meet the government's ambitious critical mineral recycling targets is still underdeveloped. This comprehensive approach underscores the critical need for India to secure a stable supply of essential minerals to support its green technology ambitions and energy security.

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