KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – The newly formed joint venture (JV) of Indian government mineral companies has entered into a lithium-ion battery manufacturing business, linked to its plans to acquire lithium and cobalt mineral assets overseas.
The lithium-ion battery manufacturing venture will be led by State-run National Aluminium Company Limited (Nalco), which is a partner in Khanij Bidesh India Limited (Kabil).
The other government companies that are part of the Kabil JV are Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Company Limited (MECL).
The move to enter electric battery manufacturing is significant since Kabil, floated in January, has been mandated to scout and acquire suitable lithium and cobalt mineral assets with particular focus on the so-called “Lithium Triangle” Latin American countries of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, an official in the Mines Ministry said.
According to sources in the Ministry, it is likely that a mining company based in any of these three Latin American countries will be invited to join as a strategic partner in the electric battery manufacturing plant.
Media reports here have suggested that Kabil is looking to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Bolivian government-owned Yacimientos del Litio Bolivianos (YLB) for setting up the battery plant, although this could not be confirmed from government sources.
However, officials did confirm that a delegation of Nalco, HCL and MECL officials visited the Latin American countries over the past few months and had even visited various mineral assets of YLB, as well as having several round of meetings with government officials of these nations.
The location of the electric battery making plant was yet to be decided as it could face challenging negotiations between Indian partners and raw material sources in any of the likely Latin American countries, the officials acknowledged.
It is learnt that Nalco was keen to locate the battery manufacturing plant in India. But in government-to-government negotiations between India and Bolivia held over the past several months on collaborating in developing lithium assets, the latter has clarified that the Latin American nation would be willing to open up its mineral assets for joint development but investments in downstream value-added manufacturing would need to be based in the raw material host country with India having the option of shipping back finished products.
As reported by Mining Weekly Online earlier, the Bolivian delegation which visited India last year had stated that YLB would be willing to offer lithium mines for development by Indian government mineral companies but would not be interested in being a mere exporter of lithium mineral to India, without downstream investments committed by the latter.
The Bolivian government has also suggested a speedy conclusion of a free trade agreement between India and Bolivia to facilitate bilateral investments across the entire spectrum of lithium and lithium-based products and the free flow of products between the two countries.