Indian state-run mining companies Coal India and National Mineral Development (NMDC) are exploring lithium mine opportunities overseas, reported Reuters, citing Indian Mines Secretary V L Kantha Rao.

This search extends to Chile and Australia, with the aim of bolstering India’s mineral reserves.

The ministry is not only focusing on these two companies but is also encouraging other state enterprises like ONGC Videsh to seek out critical minerals abroad, Rao told reporters at the sidelines of an industry conference in New Delhi.

Rao was quoted by the news agency as saying: “We are looking at four state-owned companies to become active.”

Looking ahead, India plans to send a delegation to Zambia this June, where discussions with the Zambian Government will revolve around joint exploration ventures.

Tata Group and Vedanta representatives will be part of the initiative in Zambia, aiming to secure critical minerals such as lithium.

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Another delegation is set to visit the Republic of Congo, further expanding India’s search for critical minerals.

Rao said that the government is looking to potentially widen a trade agreement with Chile to include critical minerals and exploring trade routes with Mongolia for copper and coal assets.

“Mongolia has good coal, copper assets, and some of the companies have shown interest,” Rao added.

The Indian Government’s global mineral strategy includes Bolivia and Argentina, with the latter being considered for additional lithium block opportunities.

In the domestic market, India is preparing to auction off ten offshore mineral blocks within the next two to three months.

Additionally, a fourth tranche of critical minerals auctions, involving around 20 blocks, is expected to be announced by the end of June 2024, Rao said.

The results of the first tranche of critical minerals auctions are expected to be declared by 15 June.

Last year, Reuters reported that NMDC was in talks with Australia’s Hancock Prospecting for the exploration and mining of lithium.