India is exploring ways to secure supplies of metals such as copper and lithium from some of the world’s top producers by acquiring overseas mines, as part of efforts to meet rising domestic demand, government sources said.
To start with, India has identified one copper and two lithium mines in resource-rich Argentina to either acquire or secure long-term leases, the sources said.
“A team of experts has already studied the technical aspects of the one copper and two lithium mines in Argentina by visiting the sites,” said one of the sources.
“Now, we will start the commercial assessment, and that will take about a couple of months.”
The effort is part of India’s wider push to secure critical metals and minerals from top world producers, the sources said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Mines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of its drive to explore overseas mineral assets, the Indian government has formed Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) Ltd – a company set up by state firms National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd and unlisted Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd.
KABIL is expected to set up its unit in Argentina to mine and process lithium, the sources said.
Lithium is an important raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries. As part of a broader push by the government to meet its decarbonisation goals, India has introduced a clutch of measures to boost sales of electric vehicles (EVs).
India is set to become the world’s third-largest market for passenger and other light vehicles, displacing Japan, according to a forecast by S&P Global Mobility.
Other than lithium, copper consumption has jumped in India, even as the country produces only 10-15% of its total copper requirement.
India was on track to be one of the world’s fastest-growing copper markets in 2022, bucking the trend of softening demand expansion elsewhere, including top consumer China, amid a slowing global economy.