In a significant development, the Union Cabinet, presided over by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi,
- Approved an amendment to the Second Schedule of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) for specifying royalty rates for three critical and strategic minerals: Lithium, Niobium, and Rare Earth Elements (REEs).
- Approved an establishment of autonomous organization known as “Mera Yuva Bharat” (MY Bharat).
- Cabinet approves Memorandum of Understanding between India and France on cooperation in the field of Digital Technologies.
- Cabinet approves an MoU between India and Papua New Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago for Digital Transformation.
Cabinet approves royalty rates for mining of three critical and strategic minerals- Lithium, Niobium and Rare Earth Elements (REEs)
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, approved an amendment to the Second Schedule of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) for specifying royalty rates for three critical and strategic minerals: Lithium, Niobium, and Rare Earth Elements (REEs).
i.First-time Auction: The recent Union Cabinet approval paves the way for the first-time auction of blocks for Lithium, Niobium, and REEs in India.
ii.Royalty SpecificationThe Ministry of Mines has also devised a method to calculate the Average Sale Price (ASP) of these minerals for determining bid parameters.
iii.The MMDR Act’s Second Schedule outlines royalty rates for minerals. Item No.55 states that if rates for minerals like Lithium, Niobium, and REE aren’t specified, the default royalty is 12% of Average Sale Price (ASP). This rate is notably higher than other critical minerals and not in line with international competitiveness, affecting India’s mineral industry.As a result, it has been decided to establish more reasonable royalty rates for Lithium, Niobium, and REE, as below:
- Lithium: 3% of the London Metal Exchange (LME) price
- Niobium: 3% of the Average Sale Price (for both primary and secondary sources)
- REE: 1% of the Average Sale Price of Rare Earth Oxide
About MMDR Amendment Act, 2023: The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2023, became effective on August 17, 2023. This amendment removed six minerals, including (i) beryl and beryllium, (ii) lithium, (iii) niobium, (iv) titanium, (v) tantallium, and (vi) zirconium. Lithium and Niobium, from the list of atomic minerals, allowing private sector concessions through auctions.
- It also mandated the auctioning of mining leases for 24 critical and strategic minerals, as listed in Part D of the First Schedule of the Act, including Lithium, Niobium, and REEs (excluding Uranium and Thorium).
- The exploration licence issued for 29 minerals specified in the Seventh Schedule. These include gold, silver, copper, cobalt, nickel, lead, potash, and rock phosphate.
- Validity of exploration licence: The exploration licence will be issued for five years. A licencee may request for extension of up to two years by making an application to the state government.
- The government had in July amended the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act to allow private sector entry in exploration and production of deep-seated and and critical minerals such as lithium.
Significance of Critical Minerals
i.Critical minerals like Lithium and REEs have become crucial due to India’s dedication to energy transition and achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
ii.Reducing Imports and Boosting Industry: Encouraging indigenous mining of these critical minerals is expected to reduce imports and promote the establishment of related industries and infrastructure projects.
iii.Upcoming Auctions: The Central Government is preparing to launch the first tranche of auctions for critical and strategic minerals, including Lithium, REE, Nickel, Platinum Group of Elements, Potash, Glauconite, Phosphorite, Graphite, Molybdenum, and more in the near future.
iv.India has been exploring ways to secure supplies of lithium, a critical raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries, and found its first lithium deposits in February 2023 in the federally controlled region of Jammu & Kashmir’s Reasi. Niobium is also used in making electric vehicle battery cells.
v.So far, China accounts for 70% supplies of critical minerals globally. India has been exploring ways to secure lithium supplies.
vi.India is expected to auction the newly found lithium blocks, with estimated reserves of 5.9 million tonnes, later this 2023.
Cabinet approves establishment of an autonomous body Mera Yuva Bharat
On October 11, 2023, the Union Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, gave its approval for the creation of an autonomous organization known as “Mera Yuva Bharat” (MY Bharat). In response to the changing landscape of rapid communication, social media, digital opportunities, and emerging technologies, the government is creating an autonomous entity called ‘Mera Yuva Bharat’ (MY Bharat), guided by a ‘whole of government approach’ to engage and empower the youth.
- The Mera Yuva Bharat (MY Bharat) will be launched on 31st October, 2023 on National Unity Day.This day also remarks the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
- The autonomous body will use technology to enable equitable youth development, contributing to the growth of a ‘Vikshit Bharat’ across government domains.
- MY Bharat aims to become a comprehensive government platform for youth development, with young people acting as ‘Yuva Setu’ connecting the government and citizens, utilizing their energy for nation-building.
- The government’s technology-driven platform empowers youth to contribute to India’s development, aligning with the nation’s goal of becoming a developed country by 2047.
i.MY Bharat, as an autonomous entity, will primarily cater to young individuals aged 15-29, aligning with the definition of ‘Youth’ in the National Youth Policy. For programs specifically designed for adolescents, the age group of beneficiaries will be 10-19 years. There are nearly 40 crore youth in the country who are in the age group of 15-19 years.
ii.Recently, a web portal of the Department of Youth Affairs, yuva.gov.in, hosted a nation-wide programme ‘Meri Maati Mera Desh’ in which 50 million young people participated and helped to plant 23 million saplings to create Amrit Vatikas across the country.
iii.“Mera Yuva Bharat” initiative is supported by a technology platform, which will assist in expanding the Department of Youth Affairs’ efforts to engage with young people in India.
Cabinet approves Memorandum of Understanding between India and France on cooperation in the field of Digital Technologies
Union Cabinet has granted approval for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty of the French Republic. This landmark agreement is set to foster deeper collaboration in the realm of Digital Technologies.
Key Highlights: The primary objective of this MoU is to facilitate closer cooperation and the exchange of vital information related to digital technologies.
Significant Impact: This strategic alliance is poised to bolster both Government-to-Government (G2G) and Business-to-Business (B2B) cooperation within the digital technology sector.
Implementation and Timeline: The collaborative efforts outlined in this MoU will be in effect for a period of five (5) years.
India and France share a longstanding strategic partnership in the Indo-European region. This collaboration is rooted in the 2019 Indo-French Roadmap on Cybersecurity and Digital Technology. India and France are actively working together in cutting-edge digital fields like supercomputing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies, in line with the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI).
Cabinet approves an MoU between India and Papua New Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago for Digital Transformation
Union Cabinet of India has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Republic of India and following Ministry of following countries on cooperation in the field of sharing successful Digital Solutions implemented at Population Scale for Digital Transformation.
- Ministry of Information and Communications Technology of Papua New Guinea.
- Ministry of Digital Transformation Technology of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Objective: The primary objective of this MoU is to promote closer cooperation and exchange of experiences and digital technologies-based solutions for the implementation of digital transformation initiatives in both countries. This includes sharing India’s successful digital solutions like the “INDIA STACK” with Papua New Guinea.
Duration: The MoU will be in effect from the date of signature by both parties and will remain in force for a period of 3 years.
- The MoU is likely to enhance bilateral cooperation in digital technologies in the G2G (government-to-government) and B2B (business-to-business) domains.
- The agreement is expected to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) between the two nations.
International Collaboration: India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has been actively collaborating with various countries and multilateral agencies to foster cooperation in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). These collaborations align with the Indian government’s initiatives such as Digital India, Atmanirbhar Bharat, and Make in India, which aim to digitally empower the country and create a knowledge-based economy.
Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI): India has demonstrated leadership in implementing Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) at a population scale, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. India’s DPIs are built on open technologies, are interoperable, and encourage industry and community participation to foster innovative and inclusive solutions.
About Papua New Guinea:
Prime Minister – James Marape
Currency – Papua New Guinean Kina
Capital – Port Moresby
About Republic of Trinidad and Tobago:
Prime Minister – Dr Keith Christopher Rowley
Currency – Trinidad and Tobago dollar
Capital – Port of Spain