Maiki South Mining Secures India’s First Lithium Block; Winners Announced For Five More Critical Mineral Blocks

Amit Mishra

Jun 25, 2024, 12:21 PM | Updated 12:20 PM IST

Maiki South Mining Pvt Ltd has bagged the country’s first lithium block in Chhattisgarh that was put up for sale
Maiki South Mining Pvt Ltd has bagged the country’s first lithium block in Chhattisgarh that was put up for sale

The Ministry of Mines on Monday announced winners for six blocks of critical and strategic minerals that were part of the first such auction launched in November last year.

The winning companies include Agrasen Sponge Pvt Ltd, Kundan Gold Mines Pvt Ltd, Dalmia Bharat Refractories Ltd, and Sagar Stone Industries.

In this auction, blocks were awarded to companies offering the highest percentage of revenue earned through the sale of extracted minerals to the state governments, known as the auction premium. The Centre calculated the value of estimated resource (VER), and bids were based on this valuation.

According to the ministry, mining leases (ML) were awarded for two blocks of graphite and manganese, while composite licences (CL) were granted for four blocks containing graphite, phosphorite, lithium, and rare earth elements (REEs).

While the mining lease will be for areas with proven mineral reserves, the composite licence (prospective-cum-mining) will be for areas where preliminary exploration has been conducted by the government, but further exploration is required by mining companies.

For CLs, successful bidders must conduct geological exploration to confirm the presence of minerals. Once the mineral contents are established, bidders may apply to the state government for a mining lease. They will also need to secure all necessary consents, approvals, permits, and no-objections to commence mining operations.

“This is the beginning of India’s critical minerals journey and we will work to ensure that these mines awarded today, will begin production at the earlier possible,” Mines Secretary V L Kantha Rao said, adding that the government is keen to attain self-sufficiency in the import-dependent sector. 

The first auction round produced some interesting results, with lesser-known players emerging successful. However, 14 out of the 20 mines up for sale remained unawarded due to a tepid response. The government received 56 physical bids and 56 online bids for 18 of the 20 blocks offered during the first tranche of the auction, which began on 29 November 2023.

First Lithium Block Auctioned

In a significant advancement for securing lithium supplies, a critical mineral used in lithium-ion batteries, Kolkata-based Maiki South Mining Pvt Ltd has been granted the licence to further explore the block in Chhattisgarh’s Katghora at an auction premium of 76.05 per cent.

Since November, the Ministry of Mines has put two lithium blocks on auction: one in the Reasi district of Jammu & Kashmir and another in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh.

Among these, only the Korba block attracted sufficient investor interest to proceed with the auction. The Reasi block, however, had to be annulled and was reoffered in a new auction tranche in March this year.

With the ministry announcing the preferred bidder for the Korba block on Monday, attention now turns to the ongoing re-auction of the Reasi block.

The auctioning of these two blocks for composite licences aims to leverage private expertise to enhance exploration efforts and fully assess the economic potential of these minerals.

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