Lithium is a driving force for sparking renewable energy in the world today. This is because of Lithium’s inherent nature of being ideal to be used in battery powering electronic and electrical devices.
Big News For India
India’s Mines Ministry on 9th February, 2023 announced that 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves have been found for the first time in the country in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. “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,” the Ministry of Mines said.
Further, “Out of these 51 mineral blocks, 5 blocks pertain to gold and other blocks pertain to commodities like potash, molybdenum, base metals etc. spread across 11 states of Jammu and Kashmir (UT), Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana,” the ministry added.
This discovery of finding lithium reserves in J&K owes to the work carried out by GSI from field seasons 2018-19 to till date.
Why Does This Discovery Matters for India?
Lithium is used heavily in EV batteries. The lithium ions are small enough to be able to move through a micro-permeable separator between the anode and cathode. In part because of lithium’s small size (third only to hydrogen and helium), Li-ion batteries are capable of having a very high voltage and charge storage per unit mass and unit volume.
However, Lithium-ion battery costs rose last year for the first time in the EV era, according to BloombergNEF. This has been impacting the manufacturers.
India has vowed to reach net zero by 2070, in doing so a March away from fossil fuel based vehicles towards EV is much needed. To boost this, the central government has unveiled incentives of at least $3.4 billion to expedite its lagging adoption of EVs. The idea is that manufacturing the costliest component — batteries — locally will make the end product more affordable for the mass market and set the country up as a potential exporter, tapping into surging global demand.
Thus, this discovery is a much needed step in the right direction.
The world’s second most populous country has only a fraction of the raw materials needed to satisfy domestic demand for lithium-ion batteries — forecast by Crisil to grow 100-fold by 2030 — let alone produce on a global scale. So how does India plan to do that?
As the world moves away from gasoline-fueled combustion engines, demand for lithium, nickel, cobalt and other metals that go into lithium-ion batteries is soaring.
Still a Long Way Ahead?
Discovery itself is not sufficient. Tapping this resource and making the most use of it will be needed. However, “The entry barriers are quite high,” said Jasmeet Singh Kalsi, director of Manikaran Power Ltd. to news agency Bloomberg. The company is setting up India’s first lithium refinery and scouting for nickel, cobalt and copper assets overseas. “China has captured most of it.” Thus, there lies a number of challenges on this road. On one hand there is a lack of skilled manufacturers who can tap this and on other there is immense competition globally especially China.
India has a long way to go to catch up, and also faces competition from other countries, including the US, which is pushing to grow domestic battery production in an effort to break China’s hold on the market. Further, the largest lithium reserve holders like Australia are entering the market too with upper hand.