New Delhi: Weeks after launching India’s first tranche of critical mineral mine auction, Minister for Mines Pralhad Joshi said on Tuesday that 100 more critical mineral blocks will be auctioned by February 2024, which will be followed by the auction of offshore blocks in March. Interacting with the media, Joshi said, “More than 100 blocks of strategic and critical minerals will be brought for auction next year before February and these blocks are ready with us.” He added, “Around 15 offshore blocks will also be auctioned in March.”
Joshi said that while atomic mineral blocks in offshore areas will only be given to Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), the other blocks will be auctioned to private of public sector. Mining and exploration of atomic minerals specified in Part-B of the First Schedule of the MMDR Act, 1957 is done only through PSUs.
Commenting on the timeline for the auction of critical mineral blocks, Additional Mines Secretary Sanjay Lohiya said, “The government is currently drafting rules for offshore mineral mining after which an inter-ministerial consultation will be done. And then blocks will be announced.”
In deep-sea areas, minerals are found in Polymetallic nodules, also called manganese nodules. These are mineral concretions on the sea bottom. In India, these nodules have been found to contain Nickel, Cobalt, Manganese and Lime mud.
Responding to a question on India’s plan of acquiring critical mineral blocks abroad, Mines Secretary VL Kantha Rao said that talks for the acquisition of Lithium blocks with Argentina is in advanced stages. “We are also working with the critical minerals department of Australia and trying to look for blocks in Australia. Hopefully, we will find something. Right now, it is in the study stage. We are also in talks with Bolivia, but it is in the preliminary stage,” he said.