How India can resolve critical minerals problem?

As we know, critical minerals will play a vital role in green technologies, such as the construction of wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels. Demand for these technologies is rising around the world, with global battery demand one of the key factors in this growth.

Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite are crucial to battery performance, longevity and energy density, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). As the global demand for minerals and metals rises, South America, Africa & other countries have huge reserves and the need to increase supplies as well.

Among the different minerals, Lithium saw the sharpest increase in investment, a jump of 50%, followed by copper and nickel. The sector-specific emphasis on lithium and electric vehicles is part of how China “is trying to work with local partners to build their lithium supply chains up and downstream as well. There is been a lot of enthusiasm from the Argentine government, to bring in Chinese partners from lithium miners all through that supply chain up to battery factories. In addition, last month Argentina’s Economy Minister Sergio Massa touted an agreement to use yuan from its expanding currency swap line with China to settle most of its IMF debt.

This reflects China’s assertive post-pandemic push to grow its influence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia now all regularly use the yuan, talks with Uruguay, Honduras, and Nicaragua on bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) are advancing, and China is stressing that its investments enhance local value chains, from lithium and electric vehicle production in Mexico to vaccine manufacturing in Chile.

For India, mineral security will be key as it aims to touch the $5 trillion economy. The Centre’s push for electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries as part of the exercise to transition to clean energy and the production linked Incentive (PLI) scheme will lead to a surge in demand for critical minerals.

And India, which is now positioning itself as a credible global manufacturing hub, will need to ensure a steady supply chain for critical minerals and rare earth elements.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking at the B20 summit noted that protectionism of critical materials and rare-earth elements could result in a new form of colonialism. Recently, India released a list of 30 critical minerals that it identified as essential. While for the US the list comprises 50 minerals, the EU has 34 and Australia has 26.

Lithium, cobalt, copper, gallium, nickel, tin, silicon, phosphorous, potash are among the 30 listed critical minerals for India. The political objective behind this unveiling is to re-emphasise the resiliency of the critical mineral supply chain, which is key to India’s economic and security needs.

Currently, India is import dependent for critical minerals.

Argentina alone accounts for 21 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. While at present, the country has just two mines which are in operation, a host of companies are now looking to start mining in the South American nation, which can become a leading supplier of lithium.

All along the world’s EV supply chain, a new way of mining lithium is being touted as the solution for boosting output while protecting the environment. Billions of dollars are pouring into what Goldman Sachs Group calls “potential game-changing technology,” much like shale’s disruptive impact on the oil industry.

Commercialize technology to extract lithium directly from brine, ushering in a new source to supplement the hard rock mines and huge evaporation ponds that currently supply the battery metal to the world. The advances are collectively known as direct lithium extraction, or DLE. They promise to be cheaper, faster and greener than traditional lithium production in South America, which holds about half of the world’s reserves of the silvery white metal.

Bolivia and Chile are making DLE a requirement to tap their lithium riches, a significant move given that the former has the world’s largest potential deposits and the latter has the most economically mineable reserves.

Goldman Sachs estimates that if 20% to 40% of Latin America’s brine projects use DLE, it could boost the region’s lithium output by about 35% from 2028 — or an 8% boost to global supply.

Leave a Reply