India and Australia on Monday discussed cooperation in rare earth minerals, especially lithium, as coal and mines minister Pralhad Joshi began a visit to Australia aimed at fostering collaboration in the critical sector to bolster India’s transition to clean energy.
Besides holding talks with Australia’s Minister for Resources Madeleine King, Joshi visited several key facilities such as a lithium processing unit developed by a joint venture formed by China’s Tianqi Lithium Corporation and IGO Limited at Kwinana near Perth.
Joshi tweeted that he held detailed discussions with King on cooperation in strategic minerals, especially lithium. “Assured full cooperation of the Indian Govt in enhancing Australian presence in the Indian mining sector,” he said.
Describing lithium hydroxide as a key component for electric vehicle batteries, Joshi tweeted that he had talked about “exploring joint investment opportunities for utilising the available advanced lithium processing facilities in Australia [and] enhancing cooperation in the field of strategic minerals”.
He also met Western Australia state’s minister for mines, petroleum and energy, Bill Johnston, and discussed initiatives to strengthen cooperation in the sector.
Joshi’s visit had been in the pipeline for several months and was arranged under the government of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison. His meeting with King, a minister in the new government headed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, signalled continuity in ongoing plans between the two countries to step up cooperation in the critical minerals sector.
In its final months, the Scott Morrison government unveiled measures aimed at giving Indian investors “front-row access” to Australia’s lithium and cobalt reserves. Australia accounts for more than 55% of global production of lithium, and rare earth minerals, required for clean technologies and electric vehicles, have emerged as a key area of cooperation between the two sides.
Joshi’s delegation includes representatives of Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL), which oversees Indian investments in critical minerals. An investment of $1.25 billion for refining critical minerals and rare earths, which was announced by Australia in April, will ensure the shipping of refined materials to India through secure and resilient supply chains.
Tianqi Lithium Corporation and its partner IGO Limited invested more than Aus $1 billion to build the lithium hydroxide plant at Kwinana, which is expected to produce 24,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium hydroxide a year at full capacity. King accompanied Joshi on his visit to Australia’s first fully automated lithium hydroxide plant.
Joshi also visited a facility of CSIRO or Australia’s national science agency at Kensington and the Perth Core Library of the Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA), which holds mineral and petroleum core and rock samples.
He also met officials of Legacy Iron Ore, a Perth-based exploration company in which India’s iron ore major, National Mineral Development Corporation, holds 90% shares.
The Indian side has laid emphasis on greater cooperation with Australia in fields such as critical minerals, mining, defence, renewable energy and cyber security. Joshi’s six-day visit is the first high-profile trip from the Indian side since the election of the Anthony Albanese government.
KABIL, a joint venture of three CPSEs under the ministry of mines, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office to develop secure and commercially viable supply chains for critical minerals.