The industry has urged the government to encourage private sector mining in the rare earth minerals to reduce country’s reliance on China for imports of the critical minerals.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has presented a detailed memorandum of suggestions in this regard for the upcoming Union Budget.
“Private mining will diversify sources of supply for these strategic raw materials and reduce India’s reliance on China for imports of critical rare earth minerals,” noted the CII.
“In 2018-19, for instance, 92 per cent of rare earth metal imports by value and 97 per cent by quantity were sourced from China. Clearly there is a need to build domestic capability and broad-base supply sources for such an important and strategic raw material,” the CII said, making a pitch for harnessing the potential of the country’s own rare earth reserves.
According to the memorandum, the centre should set up an ‘India Rare Earths Mission’, manned by professionals, on the lines of the India Semiconductor Mission.
Further, the government should make their exploration a critical component of the Deep Ocean Mission plan of the government.
The industry group has also mooted making rare earth minerals a part of the ‘Make In India’ campaign, on the lines of ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative.
The Chinese government has launched ‘Made in China 2025‘, a state-led industrial policy that seeks to make China dominant in global high-tech manufacturing, with a focus on using rare earth minerals.
Rare Earth Minerals
The Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are a set of 17 elements, including 15 Lanthanides, additional to, Scandium and Yttrium.
They are moderately abundant in earth’s crust but not concentrated enough to make them economically exploitable.
These are tiny yet essential components of more than 200 products across a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, such as cellular telephones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, and flat-screen monitors and television.
For instance, magnets made from rare earths are many times more powerful than conventional ones.
Along with Energy Critical Elements (ECE), such as, lithium which has become ubiquitous battery material, REEs have emerged as strategic elements essential for sustainable energy system.
A number of rare-earth minerals contain Thorium and Uranium in variable amounts, but they do not constitute essential components in the composition of the minerals.
Though India has 6 per cent of the world’s rare earth reserves, it only produces 1 per cent of global output, and meets most of its requirements of such minerals from China.