By Sudarshan Varadhan
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has committed to jointly invest $6 million with the Australian government to explore lithium and cobalt mines in Australia over the next six months, in a bid to firm up supplies of key minerals needed to further its electric vehicle plans.
India's KABIL, a mining joint venture between state-run firms National Aluminium Co, Hindustan Copper Ltd and Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd, has signed a preliminary agreement with Australia's Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO), the Indian government said on Tuesday.
The move comes at a time when India is offering $2.4 billion of incentives for companies to build battery cells locally for electric vehicles. Lithium, whose price has surged in the recent days, is a key raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries.
CMFO and KABIL will carry out "joint due diligence of select greenfield and brownfield projects to identify Lithium and Cobalt mineral assets for final joint investment decisions and acquisition," the Indian government said in a statement.
The agreement also provides for inclusion of any other Indian state-run firm as an investment partner, and envisages the due diligence process will be completed and further investment decisions taken over the next six months.
India has also shortlisted Latin American countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile for exploring mines of strategic minerals abroad, the statement said.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Mark Potter)