India reports finding of 1,600-ton lithium deposit

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lithium-ion battery

Olivier Le Moal/Adobe Stock

An Indian agency has reported evidence that shows the presence of a lithium deposit of about 1,600 tons in the southern province of Karnataka.

It may be a small find. Still, it is important, especially with the world moving away from fossil-fueled vehicles to electric vehicles.

Lithium deposit in India

Initial surveys by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), an arm of India’s Department of Atomic Energy has shown the presence of lithium in igneous rocks of the Marlagalla-Allapatna region of Karnataka, according the Indian Express.

Lithium is a vital ingredient of the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs), laptops and smartphones. Furthermore, they are even used in military products.

The lithium find is comparatively small. Reserves in Bolivia are 21 million tonnes), the Indian Express notes, with significant deposits in Argentina (17 million tonnes), Australia (6.3 million tonnes) and China (4.5 million tonnes).

Nonetheless, it has given hope to Indian authorities as they look to move away from lithium imports, on which the country is now 100% reliable.

India relies on countries like China, Argentina and Bolivia for its lithium requirements. However, with its relationship with China strained of late, India would like to eventually move away from imports from China.

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Prospecting abroad

Through a newly floated state-owned company, it inked an agreement a few months ago with an Argentine firm to jointly prospect lithium in the South American country.

The new company, Khanij Bidesh India Ltd, has a specific mandate to acquire strategic mineral assets such as lithium and cobalt abroad, the report notes. The company is exploring options in Chile and Bolivia, two other top lithium-producing countries, said reports.

India is a huge market for EVs, including two-wheelers. The country wants to increase EV vehicles by 30% by the end of the decade. As such, sourcing & procuring lithium for the crucial batteries has always been a problem. This year is a crucial one for lithium-ion battery technology in India.

On the new find, according to media reports, the AMD is carrying out surface and sub-surface exploration for lithium in other potential geological domains of the country. The Karnataka find, though small, may eventually mark its first attempt in domestically mining the silver-white metal. India is also prospecting for lithium in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The world’s top five lithium producers were (as per 2019 statistics, as reported by Forbes:

  • Australia: 52.9%
  • Chile: 21.5%
  • China: 9.7%
  • Argentina: 8.3%
  • Zimbabwe: 2.1%

The U.S., meanwhile, ranked seventh with 1.2% of the world’s lithium production.

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