Explained: What are critical minerals, the centerpiece of a new India-Australia collaboration?

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Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What are critical minerals, the centerpiece of a new India-Australia collaboration?” published in Indian Express on 5th July 2022.

What is the News?

India and Australia have decided to strengthen their partnership in the field of projects and supply chains for critical minerals.

As part of the partnership, Australia has committed A$5.8 million to the three-year India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership.

What are Critical Minerals?

A critical mineral is a metallic or non-metallic element that has two characteristics: It is essential for the functioning of modern technologies, economies or national security and there is a risk that its supply chains could be disrupted.

Based on their individual needs and strategic considerations, different countries create their own list of critical minerals. However, such lists mostly include graphite, lithium and cobalt, and rare earth elements among others.

What are the uses of Critical Minerals?

Graphite, lithium and cobalt are used for making EV batteries.

Rare earth elements are used for making magnets and silicon which is a key mineral for making computer chips and solar panels. 

Aerospace, communications and defence industries also rely on several such minerals as they are used in manufacturing fighter jets, drones, radio sets and other critical equipment.

Why are Critical Minerals significant?

As countries around the world are moving towards clean energy and a digital economy, these critical minerals are key to the ecosystem that fuels this change.

Hence, any supply shock can severely imperil the economy and strategic autonomy of a country over-dependent on others to procure critical minerals.

Where does China stand in the production of Critical Minerals?

China is the world’s largest producer of 16 critical minerals. In 2019, it was responsible for some 70% and 60% of global production of cobalt and rare earth elements, respectively.

It also controls cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where 70% of this mineral is sourced.

What is India doing in Critical Minerals?

India has set up KABIL or the Khanij Bidesh India Limited. It is a joint venture of three public sector companies, to ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to the Indian domestic market. In addition, KABIL would also help in realizing the overall objective of import substitution.

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