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Guru Gyan

India’s Exploration Of The Lithium Reserves

From importing all its lithium needs, to finding the presence of 1,600 tonnes of lithium resources in Karnataka’s Mandya district.

Preliminary surveys by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), an arm of the Department of Atomic Energy is learned to have shown the presence of 1,600 tonnes of lithium resources in the igneous rocks of the Marlagalla-Allapatna region of Karnataka’s Mandya district. This is said to be India’s first-ever lithium reserves found.

Even though the discovery is small in quantitative terms, it still initiates a domestic exploration push for the ingredient that is used for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs), laptops, and mobile phones.

As per a report by Indian Express, alongside the rock mining at Mandya, there is some potential for recovering lithium from the brines of Sambhar and Pachpadra in Rajasthan and Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat. The major mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, and the pegmatite belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh apart from Karnataka, are the other potential geological domains.

Last year, a new company called Khanij Bidesh India was incorporated by three state-owned companies i.e., NALCO, Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration. The said company got into an agreement with an Argentinian firm to jointly prospect lithium. The company has the specific mandate to acquire strategic mineral assets like lithium and cobalt abroad.

Apart from this, India has also been in an expanded trade in lithium reserves with Australia that is aimed to use Australian lithium in the Indian refinery to produce battery-grade material for electric cars and hybrid vehicles.

As per data by Statista, Chile had the largest lithium reserves worldwide in 2019, followed by Australia, Argentina and China. The data by the portal estimates that the global lithium battery market is projected to grow substantially in the coming years, from $30 billion in 2017 to over $100 billion by 2025.

India has been on a spree to secure the supplies from the largest lithium reserve holders in the world like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, China, Japan, and South Korea. The country is said to have been the largest importer of Lithium-ion batteries, especially from China.

Various news reports stated that India’s imports of lithium-ion batteries have quadrupled from 2016, which in turn tripled its import bill from the product. The cost of these imports rose from $383 million (₹2,600 crore approx) in 2016 to $929 million (₹6,500 crore) in 2019.

Along with trying to reserve the supply from other potential sources, India can now add more to its exploration of making such batteries at home (which it has been intending to do) with its own reserve findings, which in turn will reduce the import bill. Also, even after being a late entrant into the lithium value chain, looks like India has still managed to enter at nearly the right time as electric vehicles (EVs) along with battery technology are set to disrupt the market in near future.

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