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Ministry of Mines Facilitates Strategic Discussions on Critical Mineral Mining with Indian Companies in Sri Lanka and Australia

The Ministry of Mines conducted two pivotal meetings with industry stakeholders in January, focusing on the potential mining of critical minerals by Indian companies in Sri Lanka and Australia. These sessions align with the ministry’s broader initiative to fortify India’s critical minerals supply chain by acquiring overseas mineral assets.

On January 5, the ministry engaged with representatives from notable companies such as Ola Electric, Hindalco Industries, and Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation to explore opportunities for graphite mining in Sri Lanka. Subsequently, three days later, a luncheon meeting was organized to delve into mining prospects in Australia. This gathering witnessed the participation of Gopal Bagley, the Indian High Commissioner-designate to Australia, along with industry representatives from renowned companies including Coal India, Steel Authority of India, Vedanta, Tata Steel, Adani Group, and JSW Steel.

Sri Lanka boasts significant reserves of vein graphite, an exceptionally pure form of natural graphite found exclusively on the island. Graphite, a critical mineral extensively utilized as an anode material in lithium-ion batteries, becomes a key focus due to its vital role in electric vehicles (EVs). Ola Electric’s involvement in the ministry meeting underscores the importance of graphite in EV batteries, as the company actively participates in the critical minerals auction initiated by the ministry.

The interest from Indian companies coincides with the Sri Lankan government’s active pursuit of collaboration with Indian entities for graphite mining. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya emphasized the wealth of opportunity in Sri Lanka, stating, “We have the best graphite in the world…Indian companies will be manufacturing electric vehicles…they should seriously look at Sri Lanka.”

Historically, graphite mining in Sri Lanka peaked during the two World Wars, reaching over 30,000 tonnes in annual exports. However, in 2023, exports dwindled to around 2,500 tonnes valued at approximately $6 million. The country holds graphite reserves of around 1.3 million tonnes, according to data from the US Geological Survey.

India, with graphite concentrations in states like Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and Jharkhand, produced 57,264 tonnes in FY22 and imported 54,052 tonnes. The ministry’s second tranche of critical minerals auction features graphite in 6 out of 18 blocks, emphasizing its strategic significance.

The discussion on mining opportunities in Australia follows a meeting between Mines Secretary V L Kantha Rao and Australian High Commissioner Philip Green on December 12. Australia, a major lithium and cobalt producer, signed an MoU with Khanij Bidesh India Limited (KABIL) in March 2022, aiming to jointly fund mineral explorations and support Indian companies’ investments in critical minerals projects in Australia.

As India continues to diversify its sources of critical minerals, the Ministry of Mines plays a pivotal role in facilitating partnerships and acquisitions in collaboration with central PSUs like Coal India, NTPC, and Steel Authority of India, contributing to the nation’s strategic mineral security. Source: The Indian Express

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