Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Critical minerals: Resilient supply chains

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)


Source: IE

 Context: A recent working paper evaluated the criticality levels of 43 select minerals for India.



  • Critical minerals refer to mineral resources, both primary and processed, that are
    • Economically important/demand-side factors (to meet the manufacturing needs of green technologies, high-tech equipment, aviation, and national defence) and
    • Have high levels of supply risk/supply-side factors (due to non-availability or unaffordable price spikes).
  • To tackle such supply risks, major global economies periodically evaluate which minerals are critical for their jurisdiction through a quantitative assessment.
  • Minerals such as antimony, cobalt, gallium, graphite, lithium, nickel, niobium, and strontium are among the 22 assessed to be critical for India.
  • India does not have many of these mineral reserves, necessitating reliance on foreign partners to meet domestic needs.
Assuring resilient critical minerals supply chains remains a challenge for India
International front Domestic front
China, the most dominant player in the critical mineral supply chains, still struggles with Covid-19-related lockdowns. 

The war between the two countries:

 Russia is one of the significant producers of nickel, palladium, titanium sponge metal, and the rare earth element scandium.

Ukraine is one of the major producers of titanium and has reserves of lithium, cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements, including tantalum, niobium, and beryllium.

The balance of power shifts across continents and countries:

The strategic partnership between China and Russia.

As a result, developed countries have launched the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) and G7’s Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance. But, developing countries (like India) have missed out.

While India has a geological potential similar to mining-rich Western Australia, much still needs to be explored, hindering India’s emissions reduction and climate change mitigation timeline.

Many critical and strategic minerals constitute part of the list of atomic minerals in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act 1957.

However, the present policy regime reserves these minerals only for public sector undertakings.

 Long lead times for setting up new exploration, extraction, and processing activities.


Way ahead:

  • There is an imperative need to create a new list of such minerals in the MMDR Act. These minerals must be prospected, explored, and mined on priority.
  • The reconnaissance and exploration of minerals must be encouraged, with particular attention given to deep-seated minerals.
    • This will call for a collective effort by the government, ‘junior’ miners, and major mining companies.
  • An innovative regime must be devised to allocate critical mineral mining assets, which adequately incentivises private explorers, including ‘junior’ explorers.
  • India needs to determine where and how the processing of minerals and assembly of critical minerals-embedded equipment will occur.
  • India requires a critical minerals strategy comprising measures aimed at making the country AatmaNirbhar (self-reliant) in critical minerals needed for sustainable economic growth.
  • India must actively engage in bilateral and plurilateral arrangements for building assured and resilient critical mineral supply chains.
  • The assessment of critical minerals for India needs to be updated every three years to keep pace with changing domestic and global scenarios.


Conclusion: A national critical minerals strategy for India, underpinned by the minerals identified in this study, can help focus on priority concerns in supply risks, domestic policy regimes, and sustainability.


Insta Links:

Rare earth elements and push for inclusion in supply partnership