What are critical minerals? Shed some light on why critical minerals are significant for a country’s progress.
(GS-1, Geography, 150 words


  • Introduce your answer by defining critical minerals.
  • In the body, mention the significance of critical minerals for a country’s development and progress.
  • Conclude your answer appropriately.

Model Answer:

A mineral is labelled as critical when the risk of supply shortage and associated impact on the economy is relatively higher than the other raw materials. These minerals are essential for the economic development and national security of a country. The lack of availability of these minerals or the concentration of extraction or processing in a few geographical locations could lead to supply chain vulnerabilities and even disruption of supplies. Recently, the government has identified 30 critical minerals, including lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, tin and copper. These minerals will play a pivotal role in driving growth and development across various industries in the economy.

Factors impacting criticality

The significance of critical minerals for a country’s development and progress includes:

  • Economic importance: Critical minerals have a role to play in diverse sectors of the economy. This includes sectors such as information and communication technologiessemiconductors, advanced manufacturing inputs and materials such as defence applicationspermanent magnetsceramics, etc.
  • Transition to electric vehicles: The rapid growth of electric vehicle adoption, is leading to a surge in demand for critical minerals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, and rare earth elements. The government target for EV sales by 2030 is 30% for private cars, 70% for commercial vehicles and 80% for two- and three-wheelers. Hence, a resilient supply of critical minerals is crucial for achieving these targets.
  • Advancing self-reliance efforts: India’s demand for critical minerals is projected to grow significantly due to government initiatives like Make in India, Smart City, Atmanirbhar Bharat, the 100 GW target for renewable energy, and the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes. Critical minerals will play a significant role in achieving these goals.
  • Clean energy technologies: As India strives for indigenous development of emerging technologies in the clean energy sector, scaling up manufacturing operations for components, such as solar panels, wind turbines etc. becomes crucial. Given this, critical minerals are significant for a transition towards a low-carbon emissions economy and meeting the “Net Zero” commitment.
  • Building supply chains: The discovery of mineral wealth and identifying areas of its potential by the use of advanced technologies is essential for building competitive value chains in India.
  • Reducing import dependency: The identification and exploration of critical minerals will help the country plan for the acquisition and preservation of such mineral assets, taking into account the long-term need of the country. This will further reduce the import dependency as India is 100% import-dependent on countries including China, Russia, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. for the supply of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, niobium, beryllium, and tantalum.
  • National security: Critical minerals are necessary for defence, aerospace, nuclear, and space applications, as these are capable of performing complex functions and withstand extreme conditions. They are also important for ensuring defence preparedness and achieving self-reliance in the defence sector.

Therefore, India’s focus on critical minerals is due to the realization that the next economic growth story must go through two parallel processes. One is providing better living standards and establishing manufacturing in strategic sectors, and the second is to follow and invest more in sustainable models of growth, energy, and lifestyle by focusing on decarbonization.