Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Source: Coal India Exploring Lithium Assets in Argentina with US Firm

FILE PHOTO: Brine pools used to extract lithium are seen next to a lithium mining camp at the Salar del Rincon salt flat, in Salta, Argentina August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Brine pools used to extract lithium are seen next to a lithium mining camp at the Salar del Rincon salt flat, in Salta, Argentina August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo
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Source: Coal India Exploring Lithium Assets in Argentina with US Firm

FILE PHOTO: Brine pools used to extract lithium are seen next to a lithium mining camp at the Salar del Rincon salt flat, in Salta, Argentina August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Brine pools used to extract lithium are seen next to a lithium mining camp at the Salar del Rincon salt flat, in Salta, Argentina August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

State-run Coal India Ltd is exploring lithium blocks in Argentina along with a US company to secure supplies of the battery material, an Indian source with direct knowledge said on Tuesday.
The efforts are part of India's membership under the US-led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), which New Delhi joined last year to ensure adequate supplies of minerals to meet zero-carbon goals.
India has been exploring ways to secure supplies of lithium, a critical raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government last year listed 30 minerals, including lithium, nickel, titanium, vanadium and tungsten, as critical to drive the adoption of clean energy.
India and the United States said on Monday they were co-investing in a lithium resource project in South America and a rare earths deposit in Africa to diversify critical minerals supply chains.
India has been in talks with several countries, including the US, to collaborate in lithium processing and avoid relying on China, Reuters had reported. The rare
"Coal India has come forward for the Kachi block in Argentina in which a US company and two other countries are interested to explore under the MSP," the source said, declining to be identified due to the sensitive nature of discussions.
Preliminary studies are being conducted, the source added.
Australian miner Lake Resources, which has a lithium project in Kachi, is targeting 50 kilotons of annual battery-grade lithium from the project by 2030.
Coal India shares turned positive after the Reuters report, rising as much as 1.2% before trimming gains to trade 0.3% higher.
Shares of the company had been down 0.2% before the news.
In February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a trip to Argentina that the US was exploring investment opportunities in critical minerals, especially lithium.
Coal India and India's federal Ministry of Mines did not immediately respond to Reuters' emails for comments.
Under the minerals partnership, which India had joined last year, New Delhi was invited to participate in 20-25 critical minerals projects, of which four have been identified by the Indian government, with two of these are in collaboration with the US, the source said.
The second project is in the Kangankunde block in Malawi, the source said, which is being explored by India's state-owned IREL (India) Ltd for rare earths.
IREL did not immediately respond to a Reuters email seeking comments.
The Indian government has also asked miners to explore critical minerals in Australia's Dubbo region, the source said.
India had also proposed a critical minerals trade deal with US, which would prohibit imposition of tariffs on both countries by each other and would be similar to a pact US has with Japan that grants Japanese automakers wider access to US electrical vehicles tax credit, the source said.
However, the US is in talks with India for a bilateral Critical Minerals Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), both countries said on Monday.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
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Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)

With many consumers abandoning physical cash, and in light of the accelerating development of crypto-currencies, central banks in the world have started working to ensure a legal and safe cover for the use of digital currencies.

According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 135 countries and monetary unions, representing 98 percent of global GDP, are exploring digital currencies for central banks, compared to only 35 countries in 2020.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicates that about two-thirds of the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are considering adopting digital currencies for their central banks as a means to enhance financial inclusion and improve the efficiency of cross-border payments.

The Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) joined as a full participant in a multi-country digital currency initiative, known as the mBridge project, which was positioned as a potential alternative to the SWIFT payment system to enable faster and potentially cheaper international payments.

Head of Development at Binance in Saudi Arabia Bandar Altunisi told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt that the mBridge project was a cooperative initiative led by the BIS to explore the potential of digital currencies issued by central banks to facilitate trade and instant cross-border payments.

The project includes the central banks of China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the five participating central banks, the project includes 27 other official entities with observer status, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and central banks in many countries, including Norway, South Korea, and Türkiye, according to Altunisi.

“The mBridge project, which was launched in 2021, represents an innovative solution to address the gaps and challenges of inequality in the current procedures used for cross-border payments,” he explained.

Altunisi believes that the success of this project will contribute to accelerating cross-border payments and reducing their cost.

As for the importance of this project for Saudi Arabia, he noted that it will provide new settlement solutions for oil and gas exports. On a broader scale, trade will become more efficient, ultimately benefiting all parties involved, including the final consumer, he remarked.

He added that additional expertise in the field of Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) provided by the mBridge project will give regulatory authorities in Saudi Arabia more comfort and ease in allowing broader regulation and application of crypto-currencies and other solutions based on Blockchain technology.

Altunisi spoke about the difference between digital currencies that central banks are considering adopting and encrypted ones, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. He noted that the latter are decentralized currencies that use encryption techniques to boost the security of transactions and rely on Blockchain technology to ensure transparency and immutability of transaction records.

Digital currencies are digital copies of paper currencies issued and regulated by central banks, Altunisi stated, adding: “Unlike crypto-currencies, these digital currencies are centralized and usually aim to improve the efficiency of payment systems, bolster financial inclusion, and provide governments with better monetary policy tools.”