The discovery is of strategic importance as it will go a long way in solving shortage of lithium, a key component of lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) and other chargeable instruments, in the country. India now has the seventh largest resource of lithium globally, but it will take time to convert it to reserves.
India currently has to depend heavily on imports of lithium as major reserves of this critical non-ferrous metal are located in the US, Australia, Chile, China, Argentina and Bolivia. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has recently disrupted the supply, resulting in high cost of the minerals. Out of 98 million tonnes of lithium resources, only 26 million tonnes were treated as reserves (ready for use) globally.
“Lithium-ion battery demand will grow exponentially in the power and transport sectors. Globally, there are 98 million tonnes of lithium resources and we (India) have found 5.5% of the total resources. If some of these resources can be converted to reserves, it would help us meet our domestic demand and also supply to the world,” said Rishabh Jain, senior programme lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
Underlining India’s move for the battery PLI scheme of Rs 18,100 crore to set up battery cell manufacturing in the country, Jain, however, said: “It is important to develop mineral processing and raw material processing capability to truly become ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant).”
Global figures, as per US Geological Survey data, show that Bolivia has the highest 21 million tonnes of identified lithium resources, followed by 20 million tonnes in Argentina, 12 million tonnes in the US, 11 million tonnes in Chile, 7.9 million tonnes in Australia, 6.8 million tonnes in China, 5.9 million tonnes in India (as discovered by GSI) and 3.2 million tonnes in Germany.
Apart from use in EVs, lithium is also critical for harnessing solar power and wind energy — key aspects of India’s efforts to move towards its low carbon growth path in the pursuit of reaching carbon neutrality (net zero emission goal) by 2070.
GSI’s discovery of lithium reserves in J&K was disclosed on Thursday during its 62nd Central Geological Programming Board (CGPB) meeting. In addition to lithium reserves, the GSI, during its field observation in 2018-19, also discovered blocks of other minerals, including five blocks of gold in different states.
Out of the newly discovered 51 mineral blocks, other blocks pertain to commodities like potash, molybdenum, base metals, spread across Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
“Apart from these, 17 reports of coal and lignite with a total resource of 7,897 million tonnes were also handed over to the ministry of coal,” said the ministry of mines in a statement on Thursday.
It further said, “During the ensuing year 2023-24, GSI is taking up 966 programmes comprising 318 mineral exploration projects, including 12 marine mineral investigation projects. Major thrust has been given to the exploration of strategic, critical and fertiliser minerals. A total of 115 projects on strategic and critical minerals, including 16 projects on fertiliser minerals, have been formulated.”
The statement added: “In addition, 55 programmes on geoinformatics, 140 programmes on fundamental and multidisciplinary geosciences, and 155 programmes for training and institutional capacity building have also been taken up.”