Due to its usage in the batteries for electric vehicles, which are quickly gaining popularity in light of climate change, lithium is a very sought-after element
At a time when the EV sector is considered the sunrise industry, the discovery of lithium reserves comes as very good news. In Jammu and Kashmir, 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves have been discovered for the first time in India, according to the Ministry of Mines.
This is the first time that lithium has been found in India.
The discovery of these reserves is a major boost for India, which has been working to reduce its dependence on imported lithium and other critical minerals. The country currently imports the majority of its lithium from Australia and South America. India has been working towards identifying sites with potential lithium deposits and found one in Karnataka last year, according to various news reports.
As these reserves have been classified in the "inferred category", Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate has her doubts. She says, “Before going forward, there is a need to do a preliminary finding via actual extraction to check its feasibility and convert this estimated resource to the exploitable category with a high degree of confidence level and explore its chances of augmenting it. If this discovered Lithium reserve can be extracted, these deposits will give a big push towards the implementation of electric vehicle plans in India and lead India in a very strong position via becoming self-reliant (Atmaanirbhar) in developing technology around it.”
Lithium is a highly sought-after element as it is used in batteries for electric vehicles, which are rapidly gaining in popularity due to concerns about air pollution and climate change. The demand for batteries is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade, and many countries are racing to secure their supplies of lithium and other critical minerals.
Lithium-ion batteries are favored over other types of batteries due to their high energy density, long cycle life, and relatively low self-discharge rate. This makes them ideal for use in EVs, which require large amounts of energy storage to power the vehicle over long distances.
Rishabh Jain, Senior Programme Lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) feels that the demand for Lithium-ion batteries will grow exponentially in the power and transport sectors, globally. He elaborates,“In 2022, 85 per cent of the current production of lithium minerals came from Australia, Chile, and China. Globally, there are 98 million tonnes of lithium resources and we have found 5.5 per cent 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. India has initiated the battery PLI scheme of Rs.18100 crores to set up battery cell manufacturing. However, it is important to develop mineral processing and raw material processing capability to truly become atma nirbhar.”
The increasing demand for EVs and the resulting increase in lithium demand has led to a boom in the lithium industry, with many new mines and production facilities being developed around the world. Ensuring responsible and sustainable production of lithium will be important to support the continued growth of the EV industry. More than a million EVs were sold in India in 2022.
It could aid the nation in increasing the penetration of EVs by increasing their percentage and meet the net-zero goals. In addition to the long-term, India has short-term objectives like increasing renewable energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, sourcing 50 per cent of energy needs from renewable sources, reducing global emissions by 1 billion tonnes by 2030, and lowering India's GDP's carbon intensity by 45 per cent by 2030.
According to Parveen Kumar, Senior Manager, Electric Mobility, WRI India, the electric vehicle market will have a disproportionately large impact on lithium-ion battery (LIB) consumption and future acceptance in a number of applications. In comparison to 2018, the demand for lithium is anticipated to rise by 488 per cent globally by 2050.
“India currently lacks a strong domestic LIB manufacturing industry and is dependent on imported lithium cells and lithium-ion battery (LIB) packs. To reduce the import dependence and move towards Atamnirbhar Bharat, the Government of India (GOI) is strengthening domestic battery manufacturing capabilities, via Product Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes or Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) technology,” adds Kumar. He further says that the Geological Survey of India (GIS)’s find of 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves in India is an important development towards self-reliance in the LIB supply chain. “While this is positive news, it will also need a balanced analysis that takes into account the ecological sensitivities of the region.”
In addition to its use in batteries, lithium is also used in the production of various parts of electric vehicles, including the power electronics, battery management systems, and electric motors.
The discovery of these reserves could also bring significant economic benefits to Jammu and Kashmir. The development of a lithium mining industry in the region could create jobs, stimulate economic growth and uplift the local economy.