Rising Imports and Production Capacity
In the fiscal year 2022-23, India’s expenditure on copper imports saw a notable increase, reaching approximately Rs 27,131 crore (about $3.25 billion), compared to Rs 21,985 crore (about $2.64 billion) in the previous fiscal year. This information was provided in response to a query in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s Parliament.
India’s Position in Global Copper Market
India, currently ranked as the 10th largest in the world in terms of refined copper production, produced about 5.55 lakh tonnes in FY2022-23. The country’s significant reliance on imported copper ore and concentrate stems from the limited availability of copper reserves domestically.
Factors Influencing Import Increase
The surge in copper imports over the past two years is attributed to heightened demand in copper refining, signaling an economic recovery post-pandemic. This increase is particularly evident in sectors such as infrastructure, construction, telecom, electrical, renewable energy, and electric vehicles.
Government Initiatives for Copper Exploration
To address the growing need for copper and other critical minerals, the Indian government introduced a new exploration license through the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Act, 2023. This license permits reconnaissance and prospecting operations for critical and deep-seated minerals, including copper, which are challenging to explore and mine.
Encouraging Private Sector Participation
The exploration license is designed to attract private sector involvement, bringing in advanced technology, finance, and expertise in the exploration of critical minerals. Additionally, accredited private exploration agencies, under the mining act, have been authorized to conduct exploration activities without a prospecting license and are eligible for funding from the National Mineral Exploration Trust.