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India’s cabinet approves royalty rates for critical minerals auction

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The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the amendment of the Second Schedule to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (‘MMDR Act’), specifying royalty rates for 12 critical and strategic minerals. These minerals include Beryllium, Cadmium, Cobalt, Gallium, Indium, Rhenium, Selenium, Tantalum, Tellurium, Titanium, Tungsten, and Vanadium.

This marks the completion of the rationalization of royalty rates for all 24 critical and strategic minerals. Notably, the government had previously notified royalty rates for four critical minerals on March 15, 2022, and three critical minerals on October 12, 2023.

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2023, which came into force on August 17, 2023, listed 24 critical and strategic minerals in Part D of the First Schedule of the MMDR Act. The amendment mandated the auctioning of mining leases and composite licenses for these minerals by the Central Government.

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With the Union Cabinet’s approval, the Central Government can now auction blocks for these 12 minerals for the first time in the country. The royalty rate is a crucial financial consideration for bidders in the auction of blocks. The Ministry of Mines has also formulated the manner for calculating the average sale price (ASP) of these minerals, facilitating the determination of bid parameters.

Critical minerals, such as Cadmium, Cobalt, Gallium, Indium, Selenium, and Vanadium, play essential roles in batteries, semiconductors, solar panels, etc. Given India’s commitment to energy transition and achieving net-zero emissions by 2070, these minerals have gained significance. Other minerals like Beryllium, Titanium, Tungsten, Tantalum, etc., find applications in new technologies, electronics, and defense equipment. Encouraging indigenous mining is expected to reduce imports and stimulate the development of related industries and infrastructure projects, contributing to increased employment in the mining sector.

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Mineral Exploration & Consultancy Ltd. (MECL) have recently submitted exploration reports for 13 blocks containing one or more critical minerals like Cobalt, Titanium, Gallium, Vanadium, and Tungsten. These agencies are actively conducting exploration for critical and strategic minerals in the country.

The Central Government initiated the first tranche of the auction of critical and strategic mineral blocks in November 2023. This includes minerals such as Lithium, Rare Earth Elements (REE), Nickel, Platinum Group of Elements, Potash, Glauconite, Phosphorite, Graphite, Molybdenum, etc. The industry has shown positive responses, and a total of 20 mineral blocks are being auctioned in the first tranche, with the bid submission deadline set for February 26, 2024.

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