India eyeing foreign mines as domestic supply faces shortfall

In the next few quarters, India is expected to overtake Japan and mark its position as the third largest global market for light vehicles, according to an S&P Global Mobility projection. This has, in-turn, led to a dramatic increase in demand for metals like copper (for wirings) and lithium (for lithium-ion batteries). Indigenously catering to such needs is not possible as India currently produces only 10-15% of its copper demand. This unprecedented surge in demand has compelled India to secure metal supplies from other top global producers. A team of experts has already shortlisted a couple of lithium mines as well as a copper mine in Argentina. 

 

As a part of the effort, a coalition of various state-run mineral firms including the National Aluminium Company Ltd (NALCO), Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd has been created. The combined venture will be called Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) Ltd. KABIL is likely to have hands full in the coming months. Firstly, it has to catalyse meeting the nation’s metal demands. Secondly, it has to keep the Indian economy on track to become the third-largest light vehicle market and ensuring sustainable development. This is part of a broader push by the government to boost EV sales.

 

KABIL primarily has to either acquire or obtain long-term leases of the mines and conduct commercial assessments lasting a median duration of 2 months. The paradigm will then shift towards mining and processing the metals, after which they will be shipped back to the country for applications in various industries. The challenge for India is that China has been active in adding such mines for quite some time now.

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