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India’s Lithium industry

  • Published
    2nd Jun, 2023
Context

The discovery of Lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir recently has shown India a scope to expand its Lithium production and capacity in related materials like Semiconductors, batteries and electronics to boost manufacturing sector and exports.

India’s Lithium reserves:

  • According to the Indian Mines Ministry, the government agencies made the small discovery of lithium resources at a site in Mandya, Karnataka. It is the country’s first lithium reserve.
  • Now, Lithium inferred resources have been found in the Reasi District of Jammu & Kashmir (UT).

Geological Survey of India for the first time established Lithium inferred resources (G3) of 5.9 million tonnes in the Salal-Haimana area of the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.

About Lithium:
  • Lithium is a non-ferrous metal and is one of the key components in EV batteries.
  • It has the symbol Li and is a chemical element.
  • It's a silvery-white metal with a delicate texture.
  • It is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element under normal circumstances.
  • It must be kept in mineral oil since it is very reactive and combustible.
  • It is both an alkali and a rare metal.

Why Lithium is a significant material?

  • Increased applicability: In order to take advantage of renewable energy, the need for bulk energy storage applications has been increasing. This includes electric vehicles (EVs) and backup electric storage systems.
  • The good life: Lithium-ion-based batteries have a good rate of charging and they last longer.
  • Higher energy density: The energy density of the Li-ion batteries is higher.
  • Wide usage: Being primarily used in batteries, it also finds its use in glass, ceramics, rocket fuel and lasers.

How critical is lithium for India?

  • The lithium deposits are critical for India as the country puts its focus on electric mobility for both public and private transport, especially in the country's prime cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Chennai.
  • These metals are strategic in nature and have a wide range of applications in nuclear and other high-tech industries, including electronics, telecommunications, information technology, space, and the military.
  • India's Ministry of Mines further stated that 51 mineral blocks including Lithium and Gold were handed over to respective state governments.
  • Out of the 51 mineral blocks, 5 blocks are of gold.
  • Other blocks pertain to commodities like potash, molybdenum, and base metals.

Ownership of minerals in India:

  • In July 2013, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled that the owner of the land has rights to everything beneath.
    • Yet, large areas of land, including forests — which make up more than 22% of India’s landmass — hills, mountains, and revenue wasteland are publicly owned.
  • The Supreme Court also recalled that the Union government could always ban private actors from mining sensitive minerals, as is already the case with uranium under the Atomic Energy Act 1962.

Management of lithium in India:

  • Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a constituent unit of the Department Atomic Energy (DAE), is responsible for lithium exploration.
  • Further, the Geological Survey of India (GSI), Ministry of Mines, takes up different stages of mineral exploration as per the approved annual Field Season Programme (FSP) every year viz. reconnaissance surveys (G4), preliminary exploration (G3) and general exploration (G2) following the guidelines of the United Nations Framework Classification (UNFC) and the Mineral Evidence and Mineral Content Rules (MEMC-2015).

Need for lithium exploration:

  • Currently, India is heavily dependent on import of these Li-ion cells and the move to ink sourcing pacts for lithium is also seen as a move to reduce its dependency on China which is a key source of both the raw material and cells.
  • India is seen as a late mover as it attempts to enter the lithium value chain, coming at a time when Electric Vehicles are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption.

Government initiatives:

  • The Government of India has approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for manufacturing of Advance Chemistry Cell (ACC) in the country.
  • 2021 is likely to be a turning point for battery technology, with several potential improvements to the Li-ion technology, and alternatives to this tried-and-tested formulation, under advanced stages of commercialisation.
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