Rare Earth Elements, India’s push for inclusion in supply partnership

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Rare Earth Elements, India’s push for inclusion in supply partnership

  • In order to counter the domination of China over rare earth metal production, US-led partnership initiative of 11 nations aims to bolster critical mineral supply chains which is called the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP)

Minerals Security Partnership

  • It is a US -lead global group which currently has 10 partners — Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Commission.
  • Aim: To attract investment from governments and private sector for strategic opportunities, across the full value chain that will be as per the highest environmental, social, and governance standards.
  • The alliance is seen as primarily focused on evolving an alternative to China, which has created processing infrastructure in rare earth minerals and has acquired mines in Africa for elements such as Cobalt.
  • Currently, India is not part of the MSP.

What are rare earth elements?

  • There are 17 rare earth elements (REE) which includes the 15 Lanthanides (atomic numbers 57 which is Lanthanum — to 71 in the periodic table) plus Scandium (atomic number 21) and Yttrium (39).
  • Rare earths are categorized into light elements (lanthanum to samarium) and heavy elements (europium to lutetium).

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Why are these minerals important?

  • Rare earth minerals (REE) like Cobalt, Nickel, and Lithium are required for batteries used in electric vehicles and in more than 200 consumer products.
  • They are used in battery technology which may lead to several potential improvements to the Li-ion technology.
  • As India has an ambitious plan to convert a large percentage of its transport to electric, and would require these minerals.

What is India’s major concern of India at this moment?

  • Lack of Technological Expertise to explore and produce these minerals as per the global standard economic cost.
  • So, India has to depend on a handful of countries, including China, to power its energy transition plans to electric vehicles.
  • Therefore, India is working through diplomatic channels to fetch an entry in Minerals Security Partnership (MSP).

India’s efforts

  • India has set up KABIL or the Khanij Bidesh India Limited, a joint venture of three public sector companies, to ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to the Indian domestic market.
  • While KABIL would ensure mineral security of the nation, it would also help in realizing the overall objective of import substitution.
  • Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) and KABIL had recently signed an MoU aimed at ensuring reliable supply of critical minerals to India.

Prelims Take Away

  • Minerals Security Partnership
  • Rare Earth elements