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India to auction 21 critical mineral blocks worth Rs 83,000 crore

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India has auctioned 21 critical mineral blocks across nine states for a combined value of Rs 830 billion, while Kolkata-registered mining developer Maiki South has won India’s first lithium block at Kathgora in Chhattisgarh.

  • Read also:India has cancelled 14 of 18 critical mineral blocks put up for tender earlier this year

Of the 21 ore blocks auctioned on Monday, a little over 11 were new and 10 were “second attempts” — blocks from an earlier tranche that either had no bidders or had fewer than the mandated three bidders.

India has been auctioning critical mineral blocks since November as part of its efforts to transition to clean energy.

Fresh Blocks

The new blocks are spread across six states – Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and contain minerals like graphite, glauconite, phosphate rock, potash, nickel, platinum group elements, phosphates and rare earth elements (REEs). The ‘second attempt’ blocks are in Andhra, Arunachal, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and contain minerals like tungsten, vanadium, graphite, glauconite, cobalt and nickel.

Union Mines Minister GK Reddy said the plan is to ensure that these blocks are commissioned “as soon as possible”. The tender process is expected to take two to three months to complete.

“These auctions are important in India’s transition to green energy and reducing its import bill of minerals like lithium, copper etc,” Reddy said, adding that further significant mineral blocks would be identified and auctioned after their commercial viability was determined.

Order received for lithium mining site in Chhattisgarh

India’s first lithium mining license in Chhattisgarh has been awarded to Maiki South Mining Ltd, which offered an auction premium of 76.05 percent. The company received a composite license and will begin exploration activities to determine reserves and other details before commencing commercial mining.

“Initial reports indicate that the block is commercially viable,” a senior mines ministry official said.

Other preferred bidders

Meanwhile, preferred bidders for the other five critical mineral blocks auctioned in the first tranche were also announced, including four graphite and manganese ore blocks and one phosphate rock block.

Sagar Stone Industries, which won the apatite block in Uttar Pradesh with reserves of 19.09 million tonnes, offered an auction premium of 400 percent.

A senior ministry official said the block has significant reserves of minerals that India depends on importing. “They are primarily used in the fertilizer industry and the bid presents a sound business case,” he added.

Agrasen Sponge Private Limited has acquired two graphite and manganese ore blocks in Odisha, offering premiums of 70 percent and just over 80 percent respectively, with proven reserves of 0.91 million tonnes and 3.66 million tonnes, respectively.

  • Read also:The fourth round of the critical minerals auction will be held on Monday.

The value of these three blocks, which have identified reserves, is estimated at Rs 3,200 crore.

In the case of the graphite block in Tamil Nadu, Dalmi Bharat Refractories won the bid with a premium of about 45 percent. The reserves here are yet to be determined.

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