State-run miner Coal India plans to bid for three blocks in a critical minerals auction set for this month, chairman and managing director P.M. Prasad told reporters and analysts in a post-earnings conference call on Monday.

India launched the first part of its critical minerals auction in November last year, expecting to raise an estimated Rs450bn ($5.42bn) in total, in a bid to boost its standing in the global clean energy market.

Separately, a senior Coal India official told reporters that the company will be bidding for lithium and nickel mines specifically. The focus on nickel comes during a time of global crisis for the industry. Drawn-out price slumps have caused miners to reduce output from their nickel assets or walk away from nickel projects altogether.

The auction will be conducted by India’s mines ministry. Coal India has historically mined exclusively for coal – a fuel source India remains heavily dependent on despite international calls for a global phase out of the most polluting fossil fuel.

The company’s diversification efforts reflect a growing interest from miners to tap into the booming critical minerals market as demand for metals used in energy transition technologies continues to soar.

Last week, Prasad told reporters that Coal India is also looking to invest in lithium assets in Australia. “We are participating in exploration of lithium assets in Australia that are currently in the development stage, and potential long-term assets,” Prasad said, adding that preliminary talks with Australian companies are ongoing.

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In the same briefing, he announced that the company will begin operations at five new coal mines in India and expand the capacity of at least 16 existing mines to help meet demand for the fossil fuel, which has also increased over the past year as extreme weather continues to put strain on the country’s power capacity.

In the press briefing on Monday, Prasad said he is confident that the company will meet its coal production target of 780 million tonnes in the current fiscal year but added that land use and environmental challenges at its South Eastern Coalfields unit could bring a shortfall of 8–9 million tonnes.