Coal and Mining Sector

Strategic Auction of Critical Mineral Blocks  


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Critical Minerals, Types of Licences

Mains level: Read the attached story

Critical Mineral

Central Idea

  • The Centre is auctioning twenty blocks of critical minerals for commercial mining by the private sector.
  • These blocks contain lithium ore and 10 of the 30 minerals declared as “critical” by the government in July.

What are Critical Minerals?

  • Critical minerals are elements that are crucial to modern-day technologies and are at risk of supply chain disruptions.
  • These minerals are used in making mobile phones, computers, batteries, electric vehicles, and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Minerals such as antimony, cobalt, gallium, graphite, lithium, nickel, niobium, and strontium are among the 22 assessed to be critical for India.
  • Many of these are required to meet the manufacturing needs of green technologies, high-tech equipment, aviation, and national defence.
  • List of critical minerals includes:
  1. Identified Minerals: The assessment resulted in a list of 30 critical minerals, including antimony, beryllium, cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel, rare earth elements, silicon, tin, titanium, tungsten, and others.
  2. Fertilizer Minerals: Two minerals critical for fertilizer production, phosphorous and potash, are also included.

Significance of Lithium Ore Auction

  • First Instance: This auction marks the first time that rights for lithium ore mining are being offered to private parties in India.
  • Other Critical Minerals: The blocks also include nickel, copper, molybdenum, and rare earth elements (REEs), crucial for various industries.

Location and Rights of Mineral Blocks

  • Distribution: The 20 blocks are spread across eight states, including Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Types of Licenses: Four blocks are for a Mining License (ML), allowing immediate mining post-clearance. The remaining 16 blocks are for a Composite License (CL), permitting further exploration before potentially converting to an ML.
  • Approvals Required: Licensees must obtain various approvals, including forest clearance and environmental clearance.
  • Forest Land: Approximately 17% of the total concession area, or 1,234 hectares, is forest land.

Reserve Estimates and Key Minerals

  • Lithium Reserves: The two lithium reserve blocks, one each in J&K and Chhattisgarh, are auctioned for CL.
  • Nickel and Copper Reserves: Nickel ore reserves are found in Bihar, Gujarat, and Odisha, with the Odisha block also containing copper reserves.

India’s Current Mineral Imports

  • Lithium Imports: In FY23, India imported 2,145 tonnes of lithium carbonate and lithium oxide, costing Rs 732 crore.
  • Nickel and Copper Imports: The country imported 32,000 tonnes of unwrought nickel and 1.2 million tonnes of copper ore, costing Rs 6,549 crore and Rs 27,374 crore, respectively.
  • Import Dependence: India relies entirely on imports for lithium and nickel, and 93% for copper.

Post-Auction Plans and Policy Initiatives

  • Future Auctions: A second tranche of critical mineral blocks, including new lithium reserves in Rajasthan and Jharkhand, is expected.
  • Geological Surveys: The Geological Survey of India is conducting 125 projects to explore critical mineral reserves.
  • Centre of Excellence: A recommendation to establish a Centre of Excellence for Critical Minerals aims to develop a complete value chain in the country.


  • The auction of critical mineral blocks is a significant step towards reducing India’s reliance on imported minerals, particularly lithium, nickel, and copper.
  • This initiative aligns with the #AatmanirbharBharat vision and is expected to bolster India’s position in vital industries like battery manufacturing and electric vehicles.
  • The success of these auctions will be crucial in shaping India’s resource independence and industrial future.

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