“INDIA-US Collaboration on Critical Minerals under iCET”

“INDIA-US Collaboration on Critical Minerals under iCET”

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details of “INDIA-US Collaboration on Critical Minerals under iCET”. This topic is relevant to the “International Relations” section of the UPSC—CSE Exam.

Why in the news?


India and the U.S. are actively pursuing a swift conclusion to a bilateral agreement aimed at enhancing collaboration on critical minerals. This initiative seeks to bolster supply chain partnerships for graphite, gallium, and germanium. The objectives include highlighting India’s crucial role in ensuring mineral security through joint investments in a lithium resource project in South America and a rare earth deposit in Africa. This effort aims to diversify critical mineral supply chains in a responsible and sustainable manner.

India has identified a roster of 30 essential minerals crucial for its development and is actively pursuing acquisitions of overseas mines alongside expanding domestic exploration efforts.


About iCET:


  • The India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) is a strategic partnership between India and the United States to collaborate on critical and emerging technologies.
  •  iCET was launched by PM Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden in May 2022  in Tokyo.
  • The initiative aims to engage in identified areas of collaboration in diverse domains of new and emerging technologies, including semiconductors, AI, quantum computing, defence innovation, space, and advanced telecommunications.
  • The partnership has since expanded to include new areas like biotechnology, critical minerals and rare earth processing technologies, digital public infrastructure and digital connectivity, and advanced materials.
  • The initiative is driven by the two countries’ National Security Advisers, Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan, who regularly consult on bilateral, regional and global issues.
  • The iCET partnership is seen as a key part of the broader India-US global strategic partnership, with both sides committed to deepening cooperation in critical and emerging technologies.



Need for critical minerals:


  • Minerals are vital to a nation’s manufacturing, infrastructure, and technological progress. The clean energy ambitions of countries like India, aiming for net-zero emissions, hinge on securing critical minerals such as lithium (often referred to as white gold), cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements (essential for wind turbines, solar panels, etc.). 
  • Additionally, these minerals are indispensable for producing semiconductors used in smart electronics, defence and aerospace equipment, and telecommunications technologies, among other applications.


To ensure supply chain resilience:


  • The US, UK, and EU have taken steps to enhance supply chain resilience for critical minerals and reduce dependence on countries such as China for their availability.
  • These efforts include the establishment of the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP), which India joined this year.
  • China holds majority ownership of cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo accounts  for 70% of global cobalt production.
  • Additionally, China possesses the largest reserves of rare earth elements (REEs) globally and produces 65% of the world’s REEs. Vietnam, Brazil, and Russia follow as other significant producers of REEs.


Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act,2023:


  • The legislation now categorises six out of twelve atomic minerals (lithium, beryllium, niobium, titanium, tantalum, and zirconium) as “critical and strategic” minerals, excluding them from commercial mining and reserving them for government entities.
  • Under this Act, activities previously prohibited under the Act, such as pitting, trenching, drilling, and sub-surface excavation for reconnaissance purposes, including mapping and surveys, are now permitted.
  • The new exploration license aims to foster private enterprise reconnaissance-level and prospective stage exploration. Known as an Exploration License (EL), it will be issued by state governments through competitive bidding, valid for five years with an option to extend by two years.
  • The EL will cover 29 minerals listed in the Seventh Schedule of the amended Act, encompassing critical, strategic, and deep-seated minerals. Additionally, it outlines that exploration activities within a maximum area of 1,000 square kilometres can be conducted under a single exploration license.


About KABIL( Khanij Bidesh India Ltd):


  • India has established Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL), a joint venture involving equity from three Central Public Sector Enterprises: National Aluminium Company Ltd(NALCO), Hindustan Copper Ltd, and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd. 
  • The primary goal of KABIL is to secure vital mineral assets globally, ensuring a steady supply to the Indian market. Currently, KABIL is actively pursuing opportunities to acquire critical minerals, i.e. lithium and cobalt, in Australia, Argentina, and Chile.
  • The Mines Ministry has joined a mineral security partnership initiated by the U.S. This partnership aims to bolster cooperation among member countries to safeguard the supply chain of critical minerals. 
  • This involves facilitating investments in identified mineral blocks in resource-rich nations. Collaboration initiatives include exploring joint ventures in technologies related to neodymium-iron-boron metals, alloys, and magnets and partnering with entities from the Department of Energy.



Way Forward:

  • Onboarding Battery Manufacturers and Automakers: Encourage manufacturers and automakers to invest more in mineral assets abroad and process them locally to ensure an uninterrupted supply of batteries and electric vehicles.
  • Joint Ventures and Local Ecosystem: Encouraging joint ventures with foreign companies to develop a local ecosystem for refining and processing critical minerals.
  • Advance Market Commitments (AMCs): Introducing advance market commitments (AMCs) aims to stabilise demand and provide essential guidance for interested stakeholders, thereby ensuring that the private sector possesses sufficient capabilities.
  • Critical Mineral Fund: Creating a Critical Mineral Fund to support geological exploration and finance early-stage projects related to critical minerals.
  • Deep Ocean Mission: Exploring the Deep Ocean Mission, which indicates vast resources of Copper, Nickel, Cobalt, and Manganese, to reduce India’s reliance on imports.
  • Recycling of Critical Metals: The recycling of critical metals will be pivotal in enhancing supply chain resilience and promoting sustainability.
  • National Institute of Centre of Excellence: To identify more efficient ways for discovering next-generation critical mineral deposits.
  • Global Consortium: Becoming part of a global consortium on critical minerals to secure a stable supply chain.
  • Private Sector Participation: Allowing private sector participation in critical mineral exploration and mining.
  • Advanced Exploration Techniques: Using advanced exploration techniques by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to find new resources of critical and deep-seated minerals.
  • Global Collaborations: Collaborating with countries like Australia and Japan through initiatives like the Resilient Supply Chains Initiative (SCRI) and the Quad countries’ working group on critical materials and technologies.


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Prelims based Question:

Q. KABIL( Khanij Bidesh India Ltd) is joint venture of 3 PSUs comprise of:

  1. NALCO
  2. Hindustan Copper Ltd
  3. SAIL

Which of the following option/s is/are correct?

  1. 1, 2 Only
  2. 2, 3 Only
  3. 1, 3 Only
  4. All of the above


Answer: A


Mains based Question:


Q. Discuss Mission Samudrayaan in the exploration of critical minerals. How can India ensure energy security by collaborating with other nations? 


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