Centre puts up 21 critical mineral blocks for auction

New Delhi: Union Minister of Coal and Mines, G. Kishan Reddy, on Monday launched the auction of 21 blocks of critical and strategic minerals as part of the fourth tranche.

Out of these 21 blocks, 11 are fresh blocks spanning six states, including Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Arunachal Pradesh. These blocks contain a variety of minerals, including graphite, glauconite, phosphorite, potash, nickel, PGE, phosphate, and rare earth elements (REE).

Further, as part of this tranche, 10 critical mineral blocks are on offer as “second attempt” blocks of previous tranches of auction. These 10 blocks are located in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, containing important critical minerals like tungsten, vanadium, graphite, glauconite, cobalt, and nickel.

Critical minerals are essential raw materials for sectors like electronics, electric vehicles, renewable energy, defence, and high-tech telecommunications.

Currently, the extraction of these minerals is dominated by a few countries such as China, which makes the supply chain vulnerable to geopolitical uncertainties.

India is viewed as part of the alternative supply chain that needs to be developed to break China’s dominance in this crucial segment.

The occasion also witnessed a string of other events that included the declaration of preferred bidders for the six blocks put up for auction during the first tranche, handing over of certificates to two newly Notified Private Exploration Agencies (NPEAs), and the issuance of sanction letters to R&D institutes in the critical mineral sector.

Till now, 31 projects for different commodities have been taken by the NPEAs from the NMET fund amounting to approximately Rs 35.23 crore.

The Minister also handed over the sanction letters of grant of funds to 24 R&D institutes and 10 startups for a total amount of Rs 12.37 crore and Rs 11.26 crore, respectively.

On the occasion, Minister Reddy announced a scheme for partial reimbursement of exploration expenses of the exploration licence holders. Under the scheme, exploration expenditure of up to 50 per cent of the cost, subject to an upper limit of Rs 20 crore, will be reimbursed.

The provision of exploration licence was introduced through an amendment in the MMDR Act in 2023.

A total of 20 blocks for exploration licence were handed over to various states, including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Karnataka and Rajasthan are the first states to notify the auction of exploration licence. Currently, the auction for nine exploration licences has been notified by various states.

The Minister also announced that the Mines Ministry has made a plan to launch the first tranche of auctions of offshore mineral blocks within the first 100 days of the new government.

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(IANS)

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