India’s National Aluminium Company (Nalco) will soon be branching out into merchant mining as part of its broader diversification strategy, as well as possibly obtaining cobalt and lithium assets overseas.
In an interview with domestic media, Nalco’s chairman and managing director Dr. T.K. Chand said that breaking into the sector would be a relatively straightforward task.
“We are attaching huge emphasis on merchant mining. Nalco is gearing up to participate at the auctions of bauxite blocks on offer in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. With its proven expertise in captive bauxite mining and its entire value chain, Nalco can effectively take up mining on a commercial scale and meet the requirement of domestic industries.”
Though alumina sales still make up three-fourths of the firm’s EBITDA, it has begun expansion in other areas in recent years, including into wind power.
Nalco is searching both domestically and abroad for new sources of bauxite ore for this venture. In addition to the nearly two-dozen bauxite blocks soon to be auctioned off by various Indian states, the firm has expressed interest in tapping into the tremendous bauxite reserves in Guinea. Nalco has scheduled a visit to the west African country by a delegation in the near future, and the firm has also floated the idea of building an alumina refinery in-country to process the premium, low-silica bauxite ore.
Should Guinea prove to be a successful venture, Nalco is eyeing the substantial bauxite resources of Australia as well.
Nalco is also weighing adding cobalt and lithium to the firm’s list of targeted minerals, with the minuscule domestic reserves likely to force the firm to search overseas.
“Both the minerals can be blended with aluminium to make high-end alloys that can meet futuristic applications. Securing them would also mark a step towards making Nalco globally competitive,” opined Chand.
Cobalt and lithium are one of a dozen minerals a Nalco joint venture has been tasked with locating. Khanij Bidesh Nigam Ltd (KABIL), which is a partnership also involving Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL), will explore and secure access to such mineral deposits, with its primary search emphasis in South Africa and other nearby countries.