About 5.9 Million Tonnes of Lithium Reserves have been discovered in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (First in India). It is discovered in the Salal-Haimana area of Reasi District.
- Although lithium is widely distributed on Earth, it does not naturally occur in elemental form due to its high reactivity.
- According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), there are around 80 million tonnes of identified reserves globally as of 2019.
- Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile make up the “lithium triangle.” The three countries, along with Peru, contain about 67% of proven lithium reserves and produce about half of the global supply, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
- The Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia is the world’s single-largest lithium resource, and is visible from space
Physical and Chemical properties of Lithium (atomic number 3)
- It belongs to an alkali metal group, lightest of the solid elements (can float on water). It is soft, white and lustrous.
- It has the lowest density of any metal.
- It has high specific heat which is the calorific capacity. Other properties are its enormous temperature interval in the liquid state, high thermal conductivity.
- It is also found in brine deposits and as salts in mineral springs.
- It constitutes about 0.002 percent of Earth’s crust.
- It is produced by electrolysis of a fused mixture of lithium and potassium chlorides.
Uses and application of Lithium:
- Among minerals, lithium offers one of the highest energy-to-weight performance—a lithium-ion battery’s energy density is 260-270 Wh/kg, compared to a lead-acid battery’s 50-100 Wh/kg.
- Used as a scavenger (remover of impurities) in the refining of such metals as iron, nickel, copper, and zinc and their alloys.
- Used as an initiator of polymerization in the production of synthetic rubber.
- It is also extensively used in the production of other organic chemicals, especially pharmaceuticals
- Lightweight lithium-magnesium alloys and tough lithium-aluminium alloys, harder than aluminium alone, have structural applications in the aerospace and other industries.
- Most extensive use of Lithium is in rechargeable batteries (cell phones, laptops, e-mobility etc).
Note: lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable while lithium batteries are single-use.
Benefits of such discovery to India;
- Decrease imports: As of now, India is importing all its lithium requirements (95% coming from Hong Kong > China > Indonesia > Singapore > Korea).
- Save foreign exchange: In the near future imports would fall further (saving foreign exchange).In last three years, imports of Lithium and Lithium ion has reduced by 8-10%.
- Employment: Mining and exploration would further enhance the job creation in the reserve areas.
- Industrial hub: It would developed battery industry (a sunrise sector) in India.
- Exports: With development of battery industry, India could enter the global supply of lithium ion batteries (export promotion). It would help India in gaining faster momentum in the electronics and digital devices market globally.
- Reduce production cost: Replacing expensive imports of lithium with domestic cheaper alternatives would reduce the cost of production in battery industry and make it more competitive.
Potential of Lithium in India:
- Expected reserves in: Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Mandya and Yadgir districts of Karnataka, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Rajasthan.
- India has emerged as one of the largest producer, consumer and exporter of mobiles phones (second largest producer in 2021). Lithium ion batteries are the backbone of mobile phone industries. Domestic lithium would push India further ahead in this race.
- Government in 2021 approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for manufacturing of Advance Chemistry Cell (ACC) in the country. The scheme envisages establishing a competitive ACC battery manufacturing set-up in the country (50 Giga Watt hour-GWh). This PLI scheme will facilitate reduction of import dependence of ACC battery.
- Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has decided to transfer its own in-house lithium ion (Li ion) cell technology to successful Indian industries and start-ups.
- The government has allowed 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in electric mobility and encouraged domestic manufacturing of battery packs. Due to this measure, LiB technology has overtaken lead-acid batteries in mobile and stationary applications.
Why is India lagging behind in Lithium?
- Natural availability of Lithium in India is the least (almost insignificant)
- Research and exploration in the lithium is at nascent stage.
- India has very limited participation in the exploration of lithium. Most of the current exploration of Lithium is conducted as per the Geological survey of India.
- Till 2021, i.e. rolling out of production linked incentive, there was no dedicated policy for lithium battery development in India.
- Creation of additional demand in the automobile sector.
- Opening the exploration and mining for the private sector under regulatory framework.
- Ease of exports of Lithium-ion batteries.