India to send teams to Chile seeking lithium and copper assets, source says

By Neha Arora

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India will send two delegations next month to Chile to scout for lithium and copper resources, a government source said, as rapid economic expansion and New Delhi’s efforts to speed up the energy transition stoke demand for critical minerals.

Chile is a key target as it is the world’s biggest supplier of copper and the second-biggest producer of lithium, which are essential for electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy systems in the push away from fossil fuels.

As part of India’s drive to explore overseas for mineral assets, state firms National Aluminium Company, Hindustan Copper and unlisted Mineral Exploration and Consultancy have set up a company called Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL).

“KABIL has to send a delegation to Chile in April,” said the source, who did not wish to be named as details of the plan have not been made public.

“We are interested in buying assets. We are trying to facilitate┬áprivate and government-owned companies to acquire assets in other countries as well.”

The government is separately sending a delegation to look for copper assets, the source said.

The federal Ministry of Mines and KABIL did not respond to Reuters emails for comments.

India, the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the United States, has pledged to achieve a net-zero carbon emission target by 2070 and increase the share of renewables in its energy mix to 50% by 2030.

In January, KABIL signed a 2-billion-rupee ($24.01 million) lithium exploration pact for five blocks in Argentina. The deal, signed with an Argentinian state-run enterprise, gives KABIL exploration and development rights for commercial production.

KABIL, which is currently setting up an office in Argentina, is also in talks with another company in the Latin American country for lithium exploration, the source said.

At the same time, KABIL is talking to the Australian government to help appoint a consultant to restart due diligence that would pave the way for a lithium block acquisition in the country, the source said.

India is also looking at Africa for copper, cobalt and other critical minerals, V.L. Kantha Rao, the most senior official at the Ministry of Mines, said last week.

India is in the process of auctioning 38 critical and strategic minerals blocks, including lithium.

($1 = 83.30 rupees)

(Reporting by Neha Arora; editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Sonali Paul)

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