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Discovery Of Treasure Trove

Quite a large reserve of Lithium, a rare element crucial for manufacturing Electric Vehicles (EVs) that is often referred to as white gold, has recently been discovered in India. So far, India has been depending chiefly on Australia, Chile and Argentina for import of this chemical element (a soft, silvery-white alkali metal) that is an important component of the rechargeable battery. Issuing a statement, the Indian Ministry of Mines has confirmed the news, saying that the discovery of lithium deposits could change the future of the South Asian nation, and benefit the common people.

On February 9, 2023, the Government of India announced that the Geological Survey of India (GSI) recently discovered the reserve of 5.9 million tonnes of the element, worth INR 3 lakh 38 thousand and 40 crore (or USD 40,964,701,320), in Jammu and Kashmir. Reasi, 64km from Jammu, is one of the oldest towns of the northern Indian Province, where the reserve has been found. Earlier, around 1,600 tonnes of lithium reserves were found in the southern Indian Province of Karnataka. However, there has not been any commercial supply of the metal from that site till now.

According to the Indian business leaders, the discovery of such a large quantity of lithium is undoubtedly going to be crucial for the country, as far as the production of environment-friendly vehicles is concerned. They expect that it would be a big boost for the lithium-ion rechargeable battery industry in India. It may be noted that lithium is one of the main components of rechargeable batteries used in smartphones and laptops, apart from EVs. The Narendra Modi Government in New Delhi has emphasised on making EVs to prevent pollution in recent times, and such vehicles require lithium-ion batteries.

Human Civilisation has become increasingly dependent on technology. Hence, demand for EVs, mobile phones and other electronic devices, too, is increasing. It seems that India shall no longer depend on lithium imports. Experts have opined that the amount of lithium found in India will certainly help increase the production of personal EVs in the country in the coming years. The majority of citizens have started purchasing EVs in recent times to overcome pollution-related issues. In such a situation, the discovery of lithium has opened a new horizon for India. With the EV Industry expected to reach more than USD 800 billion in annual market size by 2030, the newfound reserves likely mean a big payday for the automobile manufacturing companies in India.

Batteries used in EVs contain only a few grams of lithium. Automobile engineers have explained that a common EV has around 5,000 battery cells, which require 10kg of lithium. In other words, one tonne of lithium can meet the needs of 90 EVs. As India has discovered a reserve of 5.9 million tonnes of the element, it is considered an invaluable resource for the country. It may be noted that India imported INR 173 crore worth of lithium and INR 8,811 crore worth of lithium-ions in 2020-21.

As the lithium deposits have been discovered, the Government of India has planned to call auctions for mining and refining the chemical element. Although India has discovered lithium deposits, it will be difficult to mine them. Experts are of the opinion that there are concerns about the environmental impact of lithium mining, as the extraction process requires a lot of water. Furthermore, it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. CarToq has reported that “converting the mined lithium into EV batteries poses some challenges. Lithium is just one component of an EV battery, and many other materials, like nickel, cobalt, and other metals are also required. To produce a high-quality lithium-ion battery, these materials need to be combined in the right proportions and undergo a series of complex processes, like cathode and anode production, cell assembly, and testing. This requires a high level of expertise and investment in technology, which can make the production of EV batteries expensive“.

Meanwhile, Vivek Bharadwaj, the Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Mines, has stated that the lithium deposit shall help India become self-reliant, a slogan often promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also said: “The discovery is certainly a critical milestone in India’s quest to become a global manufacturing leader, coming just days after the US Secretary of Commerce announced plans for a strategic partnership between the two countries to boost competition against China.

While Bolivia has a reserve of 21 million tonnes of lithium, Argentina has 17 million tonnes, Australia has 6.3 million tonnes, and China has 4.5 million tonnes of the light metal.

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