India Identifies List of 30 Critical Minerals: Economic Implications

Posted by Written by Khyati Anand Reading Time: 9 minutes

India has released a list of 30 critical minerals crucial for its economic growth and development across sectors, such as energy, telecommunications, defense, and more. By producing this list, India is acknowledging the need to mitigate supply chain disruptions that could affect its access to these critical mineral resources. Besides the list, the government has released a policy roadmap that support’s the country’s ambition for cleaner technologies and its goal of becoming a net zero emitter of greenhouse gases by 2070. The establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Critical Minerals will further facilitate these goals.


India has identified 30 critical minerals that are deemed essential for the country’s “self-reliance” and is making moves to address potential supply chain vulnerabilities. At a recent event, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Coal, and Mines, Pralhad Joshi, released the ‘Report of the Committee on Identification of Critical Minerals,’ which features a comprehensive list of these minerals.

The list encompasses a diverse range of minerals, including antimony, beryllium, bismuth, cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, indium, lithium, molybdenum, niobium, nickel, phosphorous, potash, titanium, tungsten, and rare earth elements. India will establish the Center of Excellence for Critical Minerals (CECM) to periodically identify and update the list. This body will also be responsible for executing functions to ensure a reliable value chain for critical minerals.

These 30 critical minerals hold immense importance for India’s economy, as they cater to diverse sectors, such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, energy, telecommunications, and defense. They play a pivotal role in driving growth and development across various industries. As the global economy advances, the demand for these minerals is expected to soar as they power essential technologies in telecommunications, high-tech electronics, defense, transportation, and more.

Challenges and vulnerabilities in critical mineral supply chains

Critical minerals, essential for key technologies, face significant risks of disruption in their supply chains. These minerals are deemed critical due to their limited availability in specific regions, leading to increased reliance on them across various industries. The vulnerability of these supply chains poses substantial risks to a country’s economic development and national security, given their vital importance in industries, manufacturing processes, and defense equipment. Numerous factors, including market immaturity, social unrest, political decisions, mine accidents, natural disasters, geological scarcity, war, and pandemics, contribute to the risks associated with critical mineral supply chains.

List of critical minerals identified through a three-step process in India

The list of critical minerals varies among countries, depending on their industries and priorities. For example, the United States has identified 50 critical minerals, Japan has identified 31, the United Kingdom has 18, the European Union has 34, and Canada has 31.

India arrived at its list of 30 critical minerals through a three-step process. In the first stage, they reviewed the critical mineral strategies of other countries, such as the US and Japan, identifying 69 critical elements for future initiatives by major economies.

In the second stage, inter-ministerial consultations took place, involving ministries like power, atomic energy, renewable energy, and other government departments. These consultations helped identify minerals critical to their respective sectors.

In the third stage, mineral criticality was evaluated using an empirical formula that was developed in consultation with the International Energy Agency (IEA). This formula aided in assessing the criticality of minerals for India’s specific needs and requirements.

List of Critical Minerals in India

S.no.

Critical minerals

Major applications

1

Antimony

Flame retardants, lead-acid batteries, lead alloys, plastics (catalysts and stabilizers), glass, and ceramics

2

Beryllium

Automotive components: transport and defense manufacturing of machinery, electronic, and telecommunications equipment

3

Bismuth

Chemicals, pharmaceuticals, casting of iron

4

Cadmium

Batteries, pigments, and coatings

5

Cobalt

Electric vehicles (EVs), batteries, corrosion-resistant alloys, aerospace applications, pigments, and dyes

6

Copper

Electrical and electronics products, electrical wiring, solar panels, automotive industry

7

Gallium

Semiconductors, integrated circuits, and LEDs

8

Germanium

Optical fibers, satellites, and solar cells

9

Graphite

Batteries, lubricants, EVs, and fuel cells for EVs

10

Hafnium

Superalloys, catalyst precursors, semiconductors, oxides for optical, and nuclear reactors

11

Indium

Electronics (laptops, LED monitors/TVs, smartphones), and semi-conductors

12

Lithium

Electric vehicles, batteries, glassware, ceramics, fuel manufacturing, lubricant

13

Molybdenum

Steel alloys, pigments and dyes, catalysts, electrical, and electronic

14

Niobium

Construction, transportation

15

Nickel

Stainless steel, solar panels, batteries, aerospace, defense applications, and electric vehicles

16

PGE

Auto catalysts, jewelry, medicine, and electronic equipment used by the military

17

Phosphorous

Mineral fertilizer

18

Potash

Chemical fertilizers and water softeners

19

REE

Permanent magnets for electricity generators and motors, catalysts, polishing, batteries, electronics, defense technologies, the wind energy sector, aviation, and space

20

Rhenium

Super-alloys, aerospace and machinery uses, catalysts in the petroleum industry

21

Selenium

Electrolytic, manganese, glass, and pigments

22

Silicon

Semiconductors, electronics, transport equipment, paints, and aluminum alloys

23

Strontium

Alloys of aluminum, pigments and fillers, glass, magnets, and pyrotechnic applications

24

Tantalum

Capacitors, superalloys, carbides, medical technology

25

Tellurium

Solar power, thermoelectric devices, rubber vulcanizing

26

Tin

Aerospace, construction, home decor, electronics, jewelry, and telecommunications

27

Titanium

Aerospace and defense applications, chemicals and petrochemicals, pigments, and polymers

28

Tungsten

Mill and cutting tools, mining and construction tools, catalysts and pigments, aeronautics and energy uses, tungsten carbide

29

Vanadium

Alloys, batteries

30

Zircon

high-value chemical manufacturing and electronics sectors

Source: Critical Minerals for India, Ministry of Mines

Why does India need a critical mineral list?

India’s critical mineral list emphasizes the areas where India must prioritize its efforts and resources to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain. Presently, India boasts a production of 95 minerals and possesses the world’s fifth-largest reserve of rare earth minerals.

Yet, India heavily relies on imports for the majority of its minerals, with a few exceptions like copper, gallium (which was discovered incidentally during alumina production), graphite, cadmium (found as a byproduct of zinc smelting and refining), phosphorus, potash, and titanium. Experts in the field suggest that India has only tapped into 10–20 percent of its actual capacity in terms of critical mineral exploration.

Establishing the critical mineral list will benefit India in the following ways:

  • Mitigate supply chain disruptions: The identification of critical minerals aims to reduce the risk of disruptions that could impact industries and sectors reliant on these minerals. By securing a stable and reliable supply, proactive measures can be taken to ensure their continuous availability, supporting the smooth functioning of the supply chain.
  • Advancing self-reliance efforts: India’s demand for critical minerals is projected to grow significantly due to government initiatives like Make in India, Smart City, Atmanirbhar Bharat, the 100 GW target for renewable energy, and the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes. These programs prioritize domestic manufacturing, self-reliance, renewable energy adoption, and the development of the consumer electronics industry. Consequently, the need for critical minerals, which are vital components for achieving these goals, will surge. Identifying them aligns with India’s self-reliance roadmap.
  • Providing a framework for policy formulation: The critical minerals list serves as a framework to guide policy, strategy, and investment decisions. It provides direction on resource allocation and development priorities, allowing policymakers and stakeholders to make informed choices. This approach optimizes the utilization of critical minerals, aligns with national objectives, and ensures a sustainable and resilient mineral sector.
  • Promoting cleaner technologies: As India strives for indigenous development of emerging technologies in the clean energy sector, scaling up manufacturing operations for components, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle (EV) batteries, becomes crucial. This expansion will lead to the substantial demand for a wide range of minerals. India’s reliance on the supply of these minerals is expected to persist in the foreseeable future. The country has set a target to become a net-zero emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2070.

Furthermore, the inclusion of fertilizers in the critical minerals list acknowledges India’s status as a major wheat and rice exporter.

India’s Net Import Reliance for Critical Minerals (2020)

Sl. No.

Critical mineral

Percentage (2020)

Major import sources (2020)

1.

Lithium

100%

 

2.

Cobalt

100%

China, Belgium, the Netherlands, the US, and Japan

3.

Nickel

100%

Sweden, China, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines

4.

Vanadium

100%

Kuwait, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, and Thailand

5.

Niobium

100%

Brazil, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Indonesia

6.

Germanium

100%

China, South Africa, Australia, France, and the US

7.

Rhenium

100%

Russia, the UK, the Netherlands, South Africa, and China

8.

Beryllium

100%

Russia, the UK, the Netherlands, South Africa, and China

9.

Tantalum

100%

Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Malaysia, and the US

10.

Strontium

100%

China, the US, Russia, Estonia, and Slovenia

11.

Zirconium(zircon)

80%

Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Malaysia, and the US

12.

Graphite(natural)

60%

China, Madagascar, Mozambique, Vietnam, and Tanzania

13.

Manganese

50%

South Africa, Gabon, Australia, Brazil, and China

14.

Chromium

2.5%

South Africa, Mozambique, Oman, Switzerland, and Turkey

15.

Silicon

<1%

China, Malaysia, Norway, Bhutan, and the Netherlands

Source: Critical Minerals for India, Ministry of Mines

Significant lithium reserves were discovered in India’s Jammu and Kashmir

In February 2023, the Raesi district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) witnessed a remarkable discovery of 5.9 million tons of lithium reserves. Lithium, an alkali metal, holds immense importance as a primary component in rechargeable batteries used in a wide range of devices, including mobiles, laptops, EVs, medical devices like pacemakers, and energy storage solutions (ESS). This discovery has caught the attention of the Geographical Society of India (GSI), which is actively engaged in more than 151 exploration projects across the country.

Recognizing the significance of the lithium reserves, the Indian government has formulated plans to conduct auctions for these reserves by the end of 2023. The objective behind these auctions is to leverage the potential of these reserves and enhance India’s standing in the global critical minerals market.

Government of India initiatives and international partnerships

Establishment of Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL)

In 2019, the federal government took a significant step by creating Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL), a joint venture involving three public sector undertakings: the National Aluminum Company, Hindustan Copper, and a mineral exploration company. With a stake ratio of 40:30:30, KABIL aims to secure critical minerals crucial for India’s industrial needs. To achieve this objective, India has forged an agreement with an Argentine firm to explore and prospect for lithium. Additionally, the government is looking at potential exploration opportunities in Chile and Bolivia.

India-Australia critical minerals investment partnership

India and Australia have entered into a strategic partnership aimed at securing the critical mineral supply chain. Both countries have committed a joint investment of US$3 million each in five exploration projects located in Australia. The primary objective of this partnership is to bolster exploration and extraction efforts, ensuring a stable supply of vital minerals to meet India’s growing industrial demands.

This collaborative initiative specifically focuses on supporting India’s space and defense industries, as well as the manufacturing of EVs. By leveraging Australia’s abundant reserves and advanced mining technologies, the partnership aims to enhance India’s access to critical minerals that are essential for these key sectors.

A recent review meeting between India’s Mines Minister and officials from Legacy Iron Ore, a Perth-based exploration company, further exemplifies the commitment to this partnership. Legacy Iron Ore, in collaboration with NDMC Ltd. (India’s largest iron ore company), is actively involved in exploring and developing mineral projects in Western Australia. Their efforts primarily concentrate on commodities, such as iron ore, manganese, gold, and base metals.

Development of a critical mineral policy

In line with its commitment to sustainable resource management, the Indian government is actively engaged in the development of a critical mineral policy. Media reports indicate that this policy will establish a comprehensive framework for the sustainable exploration, extraction, and utilization of critical minerals within India. By formulating such a policy, the government aims to ensure the responsible and efficient management of critical minerals, taking into account environmental concerns and long-term resource availability.

Minerals Security Partnership to achieve stable supply chains for critical minerals

The Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) is an international alliance led by the United States and focused on securing a stable supply of raw materials for participating economies. With a particular emphasis on energy minerals crucial for clean energy technologies, the MSP aims to establish robust supply chains to meet future demand.

The MSP’s primary objective is to maximize economic benefits by leveraging geological resources. It promotes the production, processing, and recycling of critical minerals while encouraging collaboration and mutual development among member countries. Through mineral exchanges and the sharing of production-related technologies, the MSP facilitates cooperation in the mineral sector.

The partnership serves as a catalyst for attracting investments from governments and the private sector, strategically harnessing opportunities throughout the value chain.

The MSP specifically focuses on analyzing supply chains for minerals, such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, and the 17 rare earth minerals, given their significance in various industries.

The MSP includes Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Commission.

India’s inclusion in the MSP: Advantages for electric mobility and electronics industries

India’s inclusion in the MSP brings it significant advantages, particularly considering its ambitious plans for electric mobility and the development of its electronics manufacturing and semiconductor industries.

As India aims to transition a substantial portion of its public and private transportation to EVs, ensuring a stable supply of critical minerals for EV batteries becomes crucial. The MSP provides an avenue for India to secure these minerals and support its clean energy transition.

Moreover, India’s focus on establishing its electronics manufacturing and semiconductor sectors necessitates access to advanced technologies for mineral exploration and extraction. By participating in the MSP, India can collaborate with member countries possessing expertise in these areas, enabling knowledge sharing and the adoption of advanced techniques.

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