GSI told to focus on critical minerals

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has for the first time established 5.9 million tonnes of inferred resources of lithium in the Salal-Haimana area of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has for the first time established 5.9 million tonnes of inferred resources of lithium in the Salal-Haimana area of Jammu & Kashmir.


Government turns to Geological Survey of India to search for strategic critical minerals, fearing private players may stay away due to complexity and costs

New Delhi: The government has returned to its prime mineral exploration agency Geological Survey of India (GSI) with a mission to look for strategic critical minerals fearing private players may stay away from exploration rights owing to the complexity of the task.

The GSI’s refocused mandate means the private sector will now be mainly responsible for work on surficial minerals such as coal, bauxite, iron ore, and limestone, which are found on the surface of the earth while GSI with a lighter burden would search for critical minerals.

Turning to the GSI comes out of a strategic imperative to boost exploration and production of critical minerals in the country, where the private sector’s participation initially is expected to be slow because of the complexity and costs involved in a task that brought little reward.

The agency has been tasked to bring out a record 151 reports on critical minerals in the current year so that these could be auctioned and brought in production over next one- to-two years.

Critical minerals such as lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel and titanium are important cater to diverse sectors such as agriculture, pharma, energy (including lithium-ion batteries), telecom and defence. India has released a list of 30 critical minerals, including 17 rare earth elements and six platinum group elements, recently that are crucial for its economic development but are being largely imported now due to lack of domestic exploration and production.

“We have taken a firm policy decision and directed GSI not to go for detailed exploration of surficial minerals and rather focus on exploring resources of critical minerals that is important for Indian economy. For surficial minerals GSI can go up to G4 or G3 level of exploration and hand over the report to state governments who can then decide to get the block explored by any empanelled agency or auction it under composite lease," coal and mines minister Pralhad Joshi told Mint in a recent interview.

He added that with this arrangement, GSI could focus on exploration of critical mineral up to G2 level and bring the resource under production quickly. Also, the exercise involving private sector exploration companies, the minister said, would expand the country’s mineral production and raise its share in the economy to 2.5% from current 0.9% by FY26. Exploration occurs in four stages: G4 or reconnaissance surveys, G3 or preliminary exploration, G2 or general exploration, and G1 or detailed exploration.

Queries mailed to the GSI remained unanswered till the press time.

The government has amended the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, to allow for greater private sector participation. India had explored just 10% of its geological potential of critical and other mineral resources till recently but this has now gone up to 30%.

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