From the Mineral Security Partnership to the G20 Presidency, India has been making sure that critical minerals are on its plate when it comes to most international negotiations. This is crucial for its push for ‘Mission 500 GW’, extending its scope of renewable energy to 500 GW by 2030.
Clean energy technologies necessitate significantly higher mineral inputs compared to their fossil fuel-based counterparts. Estimates indicate that an electric car typically requires six times the mineral resources of a conventional car, with minerals like lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite being vital for battery performance, longevity, and energy density. An onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant due to the importance of rare earth elements for wind turbine magnets.
The G20 countries formally acknowledged the importance of critical minerals and the need for a reliable supply chain as a result of negotiations led by the Indian government for the first time during the G20 Energy Transition Ministers’ Meeting (ETMM) in Goa in July this year. It was also reiterated during the G20 summit in New Delhi and was included in the Leaders’ Declaration.
India’s critical mineral drive
India has been proactive in its attempt to ramp up the domestic supply chain through a series of initiatives, such as the setting up of the National Mineral Exploration Trust in August 2015 to increase domestic exploration and multiple amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act in 2016, 2020, 2021 and 2023 to bring reforms in the mining sector. However, in the medium term, demand for the minerals critical to meeting the 500GW target would still need to be fulfilled primarily through imports.
India released a list of 30 critical minerals to focus on crafting a robust value chain centred around them. The demand for most of these minerals is primarily being met through imports. Out of the total 30, the demand for at least 10 minerals including Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel is fully import-dependent. Additionally, a recent analysis conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) reveals that only 15 countries possess 55 per cent of the seven minerals in the group—cobalt, copper, graphite, lithium, manganese, nickel and rare-earth elements (REEs). These issues enhance the supply chain vulnerability of critical minerals important for the transition to clean energy.
Further, India joined the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP) in June 2023 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States. The partnership was set up the previous year when several countries led by the US came together to address growing risks to critical mineral supply chains. It is a partnership of 13 countries and the European Union that aims to support the ability of countries to realise the economic benefits of their geological endowment and plans to invest in 15 high-impact critical mineral projects globally. India is now the only developing country in the partnership and is poised to act as a voice of the global south.
We are also a part of other international alliances in the clean energy space, including the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF), which supports its member countries in advancing sustainable development goals through effective laws, policies and regulations for the mining sector. Similarly, India is also a member of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), a global forum to promote policies and programmes that advance clean energy technology. While IGF and CEM are forums to enhance domestic policies and infrastructure in the energy and mining space, MSP is an action-oriented partnership of global superpowers with a focus on securing critical minerals supply chains.
Strategic pathways to mineral security
The G20 presidency has established a foundation upon which India can build by leveraging the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP) and play a pivotal role in global critical mineral security through a series of strategic pathways:
Every country has its own set of environmental laws and regulations. To implement actions on a global scale, it is imperative that a unified global consensus on what constitutes environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards is established. India can take a leadership role in advocating for the design and implementation of global standards, transcending the inherent disparities in individual countries' environmental laws.
India can unlock substantial benefits by jointly committing with MSP member countries to invest in research and development initiatives across the critical mineral value chain, collaborating with and investing in resource-rich countries for exploration and mining of critical minerals to mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities. By leveraging advanced technologies and knowledge acquired through these partnerships, India can bolster its domestic processing and manufacturing capabilities, positioning itself as a global hub for critical mineral processing and manufacturing. This will also increase the accessibility and affordability of clean energy technologies, especially for the Global South.
India can initiate discussions on a global list of critical minerals essential for energy transition globally and formulate cohesive policies aimed at harmonising tariffs for them. Collaborative efforts on this front can mitigate price volatility, stimulate predictability and stability in critical mineral supply chains, increase resource access and incentivise private sector investments in clean energy technologies.
By harnessing the potential of the Mineral Security Partnership, India can not only secure the minerals necessary for achieving the ambitious 500 GW non-fossil fuel energy goal and national mineral security but also enhance the affordability and accessibility of clean energy technologies, particularly for developing nations. The MSP can act as a catalyst for India's emergence as a leader of the global south, driving the clean energy transition and ensuring a sustainable, secure, and equitable future for all.
Siddharth Pruthi is a Consultant at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent not-for-profit policy research institution. Send your comments to [email protected].