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Time to take a decisive step in rare earth minerals exploration: Vivek Bharadwaj, Secretary, Union Ministry of Mines

May 02, 2023

India must leverage its strategic relationships to access and extract rare earth elements: Subhrakant Panda, FICCI President 

New Delhi, May 2, 2023 - At the launch of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Report on "New Age Energy Minerals," Mr Vivek Bharadwaj, Secretary of the Ministry of Mines, Government of India, expressed his enthusiasm for the potential of India's energy mineral sector.  

Mr Bharadwaj highlighted the importance of energy minerals in the transition towards a net-zero future and cited the example of Ilmenite, a mineral abundant in India. Despite holding 11% of the world's deposits, India imports a billion dollars worth of titanium dioxide yearly. He attributed this to technological inefficiencies, and litigation. 

To unlock the sector's potential, Mr Bharadwaj emphasised the need to open the sector to private players, encourage domestic exploration, and adopt efficient technologies. He also touched upon the challenges faced by the offshore mining industry and noted that the government is taking decisive steps to amend the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002. 

"I think the government, which is very decisive, very proactive, is in the process of amending the Offshore Areas Act that was put in the public domain for consultations. The consultations are now over, and it will be shortly debated by the Parliament," said Mr Bharadwaj. 

In his speech, Mr Bharadwaj drew comparisons between India and other nations like the United Kingdom, Canada, and China to illustrate the significance of critical minerals on the global stage. He mentioned that each country identifies its critical minerals based on its resource endowments, citing the United Kingdom's 18 identified minerals and Canada's 31. He highlighted the importance of developing India's critical minerals sector, leveraging the country's vast resources, and modernising policies to create a sustainable and competitive industry.  

In his keynote address, FICCI President Mr Subhrakant Panda emphasised the importance of mining for India's GDP and underscored the potential of new-age energy minerals in supporting the country's growth. However, Panda acknowledged the challenges of extracting and exploiting these minerals and called for ongoing exploration, enhanced technology adoption, and increased efficiencies to augment production. 

"India must leverage its strategic relationships to access and extract these resources," Mr Panda said. 

He called for the development of integrated mining and supply chains to achieve the vision of a self-reliant India, or Atmanirbhar Bharat. He underscored India's import dependency on these minerals. Mr Panda urged the formulation of a long-term strategy to meet the demand surge in future. 

Specific recommendations from the FICCI President included enhancing exploration, incentivising R&D for developing beneficiation technology, and encouraging collaboration between central and state governments and the private sector. He said that by addressing these challenges and focusing on strategic mineral development, India can move closer to achieving self-reliance and uninterrupted access to the critical minerals necessary for its growth. 

On occasion, MrPankaj Satija, Co-Chair, FICCI Mining Committee and Managing Director, Tata Steel Mining, highlighted the growing demand for minerals. He pointed that Western Australia has committed $14 million to accelerate new-age minerals exploration, and Germany has opened new mines in the Black Forest area after 27 years. 

FICCI Secretary General, Mr Shailesh Pathak also spoke on occasion. 

FICCI report on New Age Energy Minerals, launched at the event, provides a detailed overview of geographical and geological data, value chains, end-use sectors, applications, market outlook, and long-term demand for each mineral, along with challenges, opportunities, and key recommendations. 

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