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Indian Economy

Critical Minerals

  • 31 May 2024
  • 19 min read

What are Critical Minerals?

  • About:
    • Critical minerals are those minerals which are essential for economic development and national security of a country.
    • The lack of availability of these minerals or even concentration of existence, extraction or processing of these minerals in few geographical locations may lead to supply chain vulnerability and disruption.

Why Critical Minerals are Important for India?

  • Foundation of Modern Technology:
    • Critical minerals are the foundation on which modern technology is built.
    • They are used in a wide range of essential products, from mobile phones to solar panels to electric vehicle batteries to medical applications.
  • Energy Transition:
    • They are vital to renewable energy technologies that will be required to meet the “Net Zero” commitments of many countries around the world.
    • The world needs critical minerals to build products like solar panels, semiconductors, wind turbines and advanced batteries for storage and transportation.
  • Futuristic Economy:
  • Self Reliance:
    • Identification of critical minerals will help India to plan for the acquisition and preservation of such mineral assets taking into account the long term need of the country.
    • This will also in turn reduce the import dependency as India is 100% import dependent for certain elements.

What Factors Impact the Criticality of Minerals?

  • For most of the countries the criticality is judged by two main parameters i.e., economic importance and supply risk.
    • In the Indian context also, the same two parameters were taken into consideration.
    • Two Main Parameters:
      • Economic Importance: It examines how raw materials are distributed to different industrial uses and evaluates the effects on that industry when certain minerals are unavailable in the supply chain.
      • Supply Risk: It examines how global production of raw materials is concentrated in certain countries, the governance and environmental practices of these supplier countries, reliance on imports and trade restrictions in other countries.

What are the Five Pillars of the Critical Minerals Value Chain?

  • The entire value chain for critical minerals implies building capacity at each stage of the value chain namely geoscience and exploration, mineral extraction, intermediate processing, advanced manufacturing and recycling.
  • Geoscience and Exploration:
  • Mineral Extraction:
    • The two main modes of mining are surface and underground mining.
    • While specific operations may differ, they generally involve the use of heavy machinery for drilling, blasting, excavating, loading, and hauling the minerals away for processing.
  • Intermediate Processing:
    • India’s industrial expertise needs to be leveraged in environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks so as to develop technology for refining critical minerals with minimal environmental footprint.
    • Metal refining technologies like vapor metallurgy are the future.
    • It has to be ensured that the lack of metal refining infrastructure does not become a stumbling block in building up the critical minerals ecosystem in India.
  • Advanced Manufacturing:
    • Once processed, the metals make their way into numerous products.
    • Separated rare earth oxides that were converted into metals can be combined to create permanent magnets that are important components of Electric Vehicles (EVs) motors and wind turbines.
    • Sectors that use critical minerals for the manufacture of several vital components are:
      • Large scale electronics manufacturing
      • Telecom & Networking products
      • White goods (ACs & LED)
      • High efficiency solar PV modules
      • Advance Chemistry Cell (ACC) battery
  • Recycling:
    • The International Energy Agency forecasts that recycled mineral volumes will become much more significant by 2040.
    • The global transition to a greener future is expected to increase the volume of end-of-life clean and digital technologies.
    • Therefore, a robust recycling policy is the need of the hour to increase access to the minerals and metals contained in post-consumer goods through robust recycling infrastructure and secondary markets and encourage their recovery from mining and industrial waste streams.

What are the Initiatives Taken for Critical Minerals in India?

  • Planning Commission:
    • A Planning Commission report (now NITI Aayog) in 2011 highlighted the need for the assured availability of mineral resources for the country’s industrial growth.
      • 12 minerals and metals were identified as strategic minerals which included Tin, Cobalt, Lithium, Germanium, Gallium, Indium, Niobium, Beryllium, Tantalum, Tungsten, Bismuth and Selenium.
  • Ministry of Mines:
    • The Ministry of Mines constituted a steering committee in 2011 to review the status of the availability of rare-earth elements (REE) and energy-critical elements.
    • The study titled “Rare Earths and Energy Critical Minerals: A Roadmap and Strategy for India” reviewed India’s production, consumption and reserves.
  • Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW):
    • A study conducted by CEEW highlighted the paucity of research in India related to ensuring mineral resource security for the manufacturing sector.
    • The study identified 13 minerals that would become most critical by 2030.
      • 13 minerals included Rhenium, Beryllium, Rare Earths (Heavy), Germanium, Graphite, Tantalum, Zirconium, Chromium, Limestone, Niobium, Rare Earths (light), Silicon and Strontium.
  • Geological Survey of India (GSI):
    • A strategic plan for enhancing REE exploration in India was jointly submitted by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Atomic Mineral Division (AMD).
    • It emphasized on securing rare earth elements for India.
  • Centre for Socio and Economic Progress (CSEP):
    • In 2023, CSEP released a working paper titled “Assessing the Criticality of Minerals in India”.
    • It evaluated the criticality of 43 non-fuel minerals in India based on two dimensions i.e., economic importance for the Indian economy and supply risks.

What is the Mandate of the New Committee on Critical Minerals?

  • The Ministry of Mines constituted a committee for the identification of critical and strategic minerals.
  • The committee was chaired by Dr. Veena Kumari Dermal, Joint Secretary, M/o Mines.
  • It concluded that categorization of critical minerals depends upon a number of factors such as availability, monopoly on resources, use for frontier technologies/ clean energy, substitutability, supply risk, recycling etc.
  • Criteria used for identifying the critical minerals:
    • The committee carried out a three-stage assessment for identifying the minerals critical to India.
      • In the first stage, the critical mineral strategies of various countries such as Australia, USA, Canada, UK, Japan and South Korea were studied.
      • In the second stage, an inter ministerial consultation was carried out with different ministries to identify minerals critical to their sectors e.g., Ministry of Power, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Department of Atomic Energy etc.
      • In the third stage, a detailed statistical exercise was carried out for precise computation of various factors such as substitutability index, minerals cross-cutting index, import reliance etc.
  • Based on the three-stage assessments process, a total of 30 minerals are found to be most critical for India out of which two minerals are critical as fertilizer minerals.

What are the Applications and Availability of Critical Minerals in India?

S. No. Critical Minerals Major Applications Availability in India
1. Antimony Flame retardants, Lead-acid batteries, Lead alloys, Plastics (catalysts and stabilizers), Glass and ceramics

No proved reserves and only inferred reserves are available in Lahul & Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh.

It is obtained commonly as a by-product in lead zinc-silver smelting by Hindustan Zinc Limited.

2. Beryllium Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

3. Bismuth Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Casting of Iron

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

4. Cadmium Manufacture of electrical equipment, Chemical products, Solar cells, Electroplating, and Silver soldering Cadmium is recovered as a by-product during zinc smelting and refining.
5. Cobalt Electric Vehicles (EVs), Batteries, corrosion resistant alloys, Aerospace applications, Pigments and Dyes, Organic and inorganic chemical compounds.

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

6. Copper Electrical and electronics products, Electrical Wiring, Solar Panel, Automotive industry. Current copper concentrate production meets only 4% of the demand for copper smelters and refineries, requiring substantial imports.
7. Gallium Semiconductors, Integrated Circuits, LEDs, Specialized thermometers, Barometric sensors.

Gallium is recovered as a by-product while producing alumina.

Two plants, namely, HINDALCO at Renukoot, Uttar Pradesh and NALCO Damanjodi alumina refinery, Odisha, had recovered Gallium in the past.

8. Germanium Optical fibers, Satellites, Solar cells, Infrared night vision systems.

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

9. Graphite Batteries, Lubricants, Fuel cells for EVs, Electric Vehicle 9 million tonnes reserves exist.
10. Hafnium Superalloy, Catalyst precursor, Semiconductors, Nuclear reactors.

Normally, all Zirconium compounds contain between 1.4% and3% hafnium.

Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) are involved in production of Zircon.

11. Indium Electronics (Laptops, LED Monitors/TVs, Smartphones), and semiconductors.

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

12. Lithium Electric Vehicle, Rechargeable batteries, Glassware, Ceramics, Fuel manufacturing, Lubricant. lithium-inferred resources of 5.9 million tonnes in the Salal-Haimana area of the Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
13. Molybdenum Steel alloys, Lubricants, Medical field, Electrical and Electronics. Mineable reserves are available in Harur of Tamil Nadu State.
14. Niobium Metal alloys (steel), Jet engines, Rockets, Construction beams, Oil rigs and pipelines, Superconducting magnets, MRI scanners, Nuclear power plants.

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

15. Nickel Stainless steel, Solar panels, Batteries, Aerospace, Defence applications and Electric Vehicle. Vedanta has a nickel and cobalt plant at Goa named NICOMET.
16. Platinum Group Elements (PGE) Jewelry, Medicine (pacemakers, chemotherapy), Electronic equipment used by military, Optical fibers, LCDs, Turbine blades

Nilgiri, Boula Nuasahi and Sukinda areas in Odisha.

Hanumalpura area in Shimoga schist belt of Karnataka.

17. Phosphorous Mineral fertilizer, Detergents, Food additives, Animal Feed, Rust removers, Corrosion preventers Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
18. Potash Chemical fertilizers, Water softener, Road de-icing, pH adjustment, Explosives. Nagaur (Rajasthan), Panna (Madhya Pradesh), Sonbhadra & Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh)
19. Rare Earth Elements (REE) Permanent magnets, Catalyst, Polishing, Batteries, Electronics, Defence technologies, Wind energy sector, Aviation and Space Resource estimate of Monazite from beach sand in India is 11.93 Mt having 55%-65% of rare earth oxides.
20. Rhenium Super-alloys, Aerospace, Catalysts in petroleum industry

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports.

21. Selenium Pigments for ceramics, paint and plastics, Useful in photocells, solar cells and photocopiers, Additive to make stainless steel

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports

22. Silicon Semiconductors, Electronics and transport equipment, Paints, Aluminum alloys India reported production of 59000 metric tonnes of silicon and ranks 12th in production as per 2022 data
23. Strontium Alloys of aluminum, Pigments and Fillers, Glass, Magnets, Pyrotechnic application

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports

24. Tantalum Capacitors, Superalloys, Carbides, Medical technology

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports

25. Tellurium Solar power, Thermoelectric devices, Rubber vulcanising

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports

26. Tin Lead acid batteries, Metal Packaging, Solders, Home decor Produced in the form of concentrates and metal in Chhattisgarh
27. Titanium Color pigments in paint, Plastics, and paper, Metal alloys (aluminum, steel, molybdenum), Aircraft, Spacecraft, Missiles and rockets, Non Corrosive pipes, Ship and submarine hulls Coastal districts of Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Gujarat and Maharashtra
28. Tungsten Production of hard materials like high penetration alloy for weaponry, rockets, missiles, Cutting tools (tungsten carbide), Filament wires, Electrodes and Super alloys, Oil and gas drilling

Not available.

Current requirements are made through imports

29. Vanadium Metal alloys (steel), Military armor plating, Nuclear reactor components, Manufacturing of superconducting magnets Total estimated reserves of vanadium ore as on1.4.2015 are placed at 24.63 million tones.
30. Zircon Good nuclear fuel-rod cladding metal, Re- entry vehicles and coatings in jet engines, Used in heat shield in space shuttles Obtained as a by-product during the beneficiation of heavy mineral sands in Manavalakurichi in Tamil Nadu.

What are Additional Recommendations of the Committee?

  • There is a need for establishing a National Institute on Critical Minerals on the lines of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
    • CSIRO is an Australian government corporate entity and one of the world’s multidisciplinary science and research organizations.
  • A wing in the Ministry of Mines can be established as a Centre of Excellence for Critical Minerals (CECM).
    • It will focus on identifying more efficient ways for discovering next generation critical mineral deposits.
    • It will periodically update the list of critical minerals for India, preferably every three years, and notify the critical mineral strategy from time to time.


India's focus on clean energy and reducing emissions has increased the importance of critical minerals, essential for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems. These minerals are vital for India's transition to a greener and more sustainable future. Understanding and utilizing these resources will fuel India's growth, competitiveness, and sustainable development.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)


Q1.Consider the following minerals: (2020)

  1. Bentonite
  2. Chromite
  3. Kyanite
  4. Sillimanite

In India, which of the above is/are officially designated as major minerals?

(A) 1 and 2 only

(B) 4 only

(C) 1 and 3 only

(D) 2, 3 and 4 only

Ans: D

Q2.Recently, there has been a concern over the short supply of a group of elements called ‘rare earth metals’. Why? (2012)

  1. China, which is the largest producer of these elements, has imposed some restrictions on their export.
  2. Other than China, Australia, Canada and Chile, these elements are not found in any country.
  3. Rare earth metals are essential for the manufacture of various kinds of electronic items and there is a growing demand for these elements.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(A) 1 only

(B) 2 and 3 only

(C) 1 and 3 only

(D) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: C


Q. Discuss the multi-dimensional implications of uneven distribution of mineral oil in the world. (2021)

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