Explained: What does the discovery of lithium in J&K mean for India?

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Explained: What does the discovery of lithium in J&K mean for India?

India's dependence on the import of EV batteries, laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic devices would be significantly reduced since the discovery of a 5.9 million tonnes lithium reserve in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi District. The reserve can help meet India's expanding EV industry's lithium demand. Since the commercialisation of lithium-ion batteries in the 1990s, significant technological advancements have put lithium at the forefront, according to Austrade, The Australian Trade and Investment Commission. Australian government's trade, investment and education promotion agency. It is the driving force behind the revolution in smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices.

What is lithium used for?

Lithium is an extremely reactive, alkaline, and light metal. It is mostly employed in the manufacturing of ceramics and glassware, greases, medicinal compounds, air conditioners, and aluminium, among other things. Due to its maximum energy storage capacity per kilogramme, It is an ideal option for electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla due to its enormous energy storage capacity and incredibly low weight.

India's 'white gold'

The Geological Survey of India, which also evaluates India's mineral resources, discovered 5.9 million tonnes of lithium resources - a first for the nation - in the Salal-Haimana region of Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district, according to a report released on February 9 by the Indian Ministry of Mines. During the 62nd Central Geological Programming Board meeting that day, the Ministry of Mines presented a report on this, 15 additional resource-bearing geological reports, and 35 geological memoranda to the relevant state governments.


“For the first time, lithium reserves have been discovered and that too in Jammu and Kashmir,” the news agency PTI quoted mines secretary Vivek Bharadwaj as saying.

The soft, shining grey metal is one that is crucial in the modern world. Among other things, it's utilised to construct the essential batteries for electric vehicles. Hence, "white gold" was given. If India had its own lithium reserves, it wouldn't need to rely as heavily on imports as it does now to meet its demands. Given the push for electric vehicles, India's needs for lithium are also probably going to increase, said Bharadwaj. 


Reserves of ithium are also rare. According to Rishabh Jain, senior programme director for the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water, who spoke to the Wire, there are 98 million tonnes of lithium in the world.  India has now discovered around 5.5 per cent of these resources.

India's Lithium reserve vs Lithium reserves in other countries

The lithium deposit in Jammu and Kashmir may contain a significant amount of lithium, however it is currently insufficient to compare to the top lithium reserves in the world. Australia has 6.3 million tonnes of lithium, Bolivia has 21 million tonnes, and Argentina has 17 million tonnes, as reported by the Mint. China, however, is the source of 4.5 million tonnes of the light metal. In 2020, China will be the third-largest provider of lithium in the world, owning a total of 7.9% of the world's lithium reserves.

Since South America is a particularly rich supply of the metal, the three nations of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina are collectively referred to as the "Lithium Triangle."

A US-based committee claims that between 2018 and 2020, China spent $16 billion on mining operations abroad to explore for lithium. It also made investments in the "lithium triangle" region of South America.

Furthermore, China is the world's leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles. According to a research by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, mostly because of its early investment in Australia's main mining output activities.

Beijing currently has 55% of the chemical lithium supply needed for battery-powered electric vehicles. It is currently increasing its power in the lithium triangle as well. The principal owner of the Cauchar-Olaroz facility in Argentina, thought to be one of the world's top lithium producing mines, is China's Ganfeng Lithium.

Additionally, it is one of the largest EV battery suppliers to India. Given India's fraught relationship with the dragon over territorial disputes, this is a matter of concern.

Owning more of these lithium sources and strengthening India's position in foreign lithium mines are crucial if India is to become self-sufficient in the field of EV production and stop depending on China for EV battery supplies.

Amount of lithium in EV batteries

EV batteries contain a few grammes of lithium, which is best described as being comparable to half a teaspoon of sugar. 5,000 battery cells and 10 kg of lithium are both potential requirements for an EV. 90 electric cars' worth of demand can be supplied by one tonne of lithium, as reported by Money Control. 

These batteries are lithium-ion and contain numerous distinct cells. One million electric automobiles require around 60,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent.

Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla, stated in a recent tweet that 30 million electric cars must be created by 2027, which would require 1.8 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent. This would require a 473 percent increase in output of lithium carbon equivalent to 1.8 million tonnes from levels in 2019.

By 2030, Tesla itself plans to boost its capacity for producing batteries by at least 50 times, to three terawatt hours. This would take $7 billion (Rs 51,025 crore) in investments, but that amount is significantly less when taking batteries and auto production into account.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are favoured and accounted for 54 per cent of the metal's demand in 2019. In addition to having a higher energy density and a longer life cycle with less maintenance, they are scalable.

Game changer for India

India, which has mostly relied on imports for the mineral, now has hope with the finding of a large reserve. The fact that the majority of the global reserve is located in regions with severe water stress makes this discovery even more important. India is a potential replacement because the mineral requires a large amount of water for extraction and the majority of the reserves are in nations with water shortages.

EVs aren't the only thing that use lithium; it's also used in the medical field, in electronics that run our phones, in solar panels, and in other renewable technologies essential for the switch to clean energy. The discovery might mark the start of a new era for the entire world as well as India.

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