India wants to open up for lithium mining in batteries quest

India is trying to change laws to allow private miners to extract lithium, the main ingredient for batteries used for electric vehicles and energy storage, as the country aims to become more self-sufficient in green technologies.

According to people familiar with the plans, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is seeking approval from lawmakers in the current session of parliament for changes to existing policies. Eight minerals, including lithium, beryllium and zirconium, will be removed from a restricted list that currently prohibits production by private companies.

The changes would allow the government to auction licenses to exploit lithium reserves, the people said, asking not to be named as the matter is not yet public. They also aim to reduce India’s reliance on imports for some key minerals and, according to the people, put the country in a better position to compete in the lucrative battery supply chain.

A spokesman for the mines ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

India aims to add local production of many zero-emission technologies, while pursuing a goal of being carbon neutral by 2070 and seizing opportunities of the global transition to cleaner energy. The country has pledged to build 500 gigawatts of clean power capacity by 2030, and deploying massive amounts of battery storage is considered essential to run on renewable energy sources 24 hours a day.

According to the Ministry of Mines, government agencies have been investigating lithium and discovered a small resource at a site in southern Karnataka state. Still, to produce and reduce lithium on any meaningful scale

on imports, India should find and develop further deposits.

Australia and Chile currently dominate raw material production, while China is the world’s largest refinery.

India’s imports of lithium-ion batteries rose 54% from a year earlier to $1.83 billion in the year ended March, data from the Ministry of Commerce shows. Nearly 87% of purchases came from China and Hong Kong, despite India’s efforts to avoid imports from its northern neighbor

In addition to efforts to boost local production, the country is also exploring lithium and cobalt assets abroad. A joint venture has been formed with three state-owned companies —

Co., . and Mineral Exploration Corp. — to acquire mines overseas.

“This policy change aims to reduce import dependency, although apart from some recent minor discoveries in Karnataka, India has no known lithium reserves,” said Debasish Mishra, a Mumbai-based partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, adding that the target is also to stimulate exploration and mining activities by attracting private participation. “This is a welcome step, but it also requires more promotion and incentives from the government.”

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